Countries in South Asia on Tuesday agreed to work on further opening up markets for the members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, as a measure to deal with the global downturn.
At their meeting in Delhi, commerce and trade secretaries from the SAARC countries veered round to the view that the member countries need to prune their sensitive lists to enable an increased flow of goods under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement.
Addressing the meeting, SAARC Secretary General Seel Kant Sharma expressed the hope that the member-states would be ready to come forward with their “reduced sensitive list” at the next meeting of commerce secretaries later this year. The direction to expand the basket of items for free trade in the region has come from the SAARC leadership.
“Officials, including from Pakistan, realise the need for cutting barriers across South Asia,” a senior official from the Commerce Ministry said.
While the eight countries have operationalised SAFTA, they maintain barriers on items listed in the sensitive lists, thus blocking the potential for increasing the current $26 billion trade in the SAARC region.
This is for the first time that trade officials from Pakistan travelled to India after the Mumbai attacks in November.