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Kamal Nath to visit Kathmandu for SAFTA

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath will be in Kathmandu next week to attend the SAARC ministers' meeting.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2007 13:08 IST

Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath will bein Kathmandunext week to attend the SAARC ministers' meeting on better implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.

He will reach Kathmandu on February 25 night and leave the next day after attending the second SAFTA meeting between ministers of the seven countries in the neighbourhood.

Though the SAFTA agreement, signed at the 12th SAARC Summit in Islamabad in 2004, has come into effect from January 2006, it is yet to implement fully the concept of a free trade zone covering India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The pact still requires India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to reduce duties to 20 per cent in the first phase of the two-year period ending in 2007.

The stage for the ministerial meet will be set by a two-day meeting of joint secretaries of the seven countries.

Starting February 24, the committee of experts will fine-tune the dispute settlement mechanism, non-tariff barriers and the list of sensitive items.

The SAFTA envisions zero duty trading by 2012, following a series of annual cuts.

Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives, regarded as the least developing countries in the regional bloc, will get an addition three years to acquire zero duty status.

First Published: Feb 18, 2007 13:08 IST