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Bangladesh jittery of opening service sector under SAFTA

Dhaka's business community wants the government to withhold concessions under the framework of South Asian Free Trade Area.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2007 17:51 IST

Bangladesh's business community apprehends that the burgeoning service sector may suffer from "uneven competition" from other South Asian partners and wants the government to withhold concessions under the framework of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).

Heeding them, the government has held its first meeting to conduct a cost-benefit and risk study before opening up the service sector.

The business community is of the view that the government stick to the tariff concessions under the SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA), which were later restricted by the sensitive lists of SAFTA.

"We must know the strengths and weaknesses of our service sector so that it does not suffer in the free trade regime in the regional bloc.

That is why a national study will be conducted on the issue before a regional study," the representative of a trade body told New Age newspaper on Tuesday.

Mustafa Abid, a trade expert of the Tariff Commission, said Dhaka would insist on the inclusion of benefits of SAPTA in the list of tariff concessions so that the sensitive list does not lessen Bangladesh's benefits.

"If all the benefits stipulated in different resolutions are ensured, the sensitive lists will automatically be made smaller," he added.

Bangladesh is the current chair of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) - the eight-nation regional body that last year admitted Afghanistan.

It is to pass on the baton to India at the next SAARC summit.

First Published: Feb 13, 2007 17:51 IST