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'Duty-free Indian market needed'

India should play a big brother to its smaller and less-developed neighbours of SAARC by giving them duty-free market access.

business Updated: Mar 29, 2007 15:13 IST

As the largest member of SAARC, India should give duty-free market access to its smaller and less-developed neighbours like Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal while Pakistan needs to implement the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement, suggests industry body Assocham.

Days before the SAARC Summit in the capital, ASSOCHAM President, Venugopal N Dhoot said, "Indian industry would fully support the government if it comes out with any package for our smaller neighbours since the size of our industry and economy is large enough to accommodate the requirements of these countries." He said India has extended a commitment to review non-tariff barriers, if any, and give better access to its market as part of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

"Our economy, which is expected to reach a size of a trillion dollar by March 2008, should share the fruits of its growth with the smaller members of the SAARC," Dhoot said.

"Pakistan's reluctance to grant Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, even under the recently ratified SAFTA, is another issue that warrants an immediate solution," he said.

According to ASSOCHAM, the SAARC region accounted for a mere 2.5 per cent of India's total foreign trade in April-October 2006. Therefore, the opening up of India's market under the trade agreement is not likely to have a major impact on the domestic market.

Imports from the SAARC countries amounted to only less than a billion dollar, contributing just 0.82 per cent to the total imports of 104 billion dollars.