India announced that it would meet its commitment of reducing tariff lines under the sensitive list by 20 per cent for all by next month under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement signed by South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries.
Indian Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has said that time has come to take a call on reduction of barriers to trade. SAFTA is moving forward on the path of economic integration and India should give full support so that the region realises its full potential.
The first meeting of the South Asia Forum with the participation of SAARC member countries began in New Delhi on Thursday. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in partnership with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is hosting the meeting.
The Pakistani side has assured India that they would also work internally towards meeting its SAFTA obligation. India has already allowed zero duty access for the SAARC least developed countries (LDCs), for almost 97 per cent of the total tariff lines. “India is keen to engage more with Pakistan and develop deeper economic linkages. That will give more depth and width to our relationship,” he said.
India’s trade with SAARC stands at a mere $ 13 billion at a time when our global trade has expanded to cross $ 600 billion.
Indian companies have stepped out and were engaged in foreign shores investing over $ 100 billion and more than 90 per cent of this investment has been outside South Asia.
India investment flows into SAARC have been around $ 10 billion.
“This clearly brings out the imperative of creating a more conducive investment climate a more harmonious linkage between our industry bodies and a strong political commitment for an integrated South Asia,” Sharma said.
The forum is driven by focused discussions and active sharing of experiences and best practices among South Asia’s diverse public and private stakeholders, for charting out the future course of SAARC and recommend if required, necessary improvements in the existing mechanisms.