Call to review country-specific list of products

KARACHI: Zakaria Usman, President, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), said on Thursday that the respective governments of SAARC member countries should be encouraged to review the country-specific list of products that have export capacity but less trading volume to devise strategies for trade promotion and development, and to remove trade barriers.

The causes of lower trade among the SAARC countries should be identified and in the light of this analysis country specific list of products should be revisited. He said that sensitive list should be revisited to liberalize trade among SAARC countries for those products which are being imported from other countries.

Usman informed that presently, Nepal maintains 25.5 percentages of total lines in sensitive list which indicates that 25.5 percent products lines are not contributing in regional trade with Nepal. Similarly, 22.6 percent of total products lines are included in sensitive list of Pakistan it means have no contribution in regional trade, sensitive list of Sri Lanka contains 20.3 percent, Maldives 12.8 percent, India 16.9 percent and Bhutan 3 percentages of total products lines are in sensitive list.

He said that shifting of items from sensitive list to general category lead to reduction in duties and boost trade. The eight SAARC member countries, including Pakistan and India, concluded a landmark treaty South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) with a pledge to allow free trade among member countries by eliminating trade barriers and scale down their tariffs in two phases to 0-5 percent.

He further said that under the Trade Liberalization Program of SAFTA, the customs duties on products would be progressively reduced and this program would be completed by 2016. Currently, most of the tradable items are in the negative lists of the respective member states.

Pakistan has taken a giant step by replacing the Positive List of 1,946 items, which could be imported from India, with the Negative List, that bans only 1,209 items; the other approximately 7,000-plus exportable items India can export to Pakistan.

President FPCCI emphasized that SAARC member states need to make extra efforts to maximize the realization of optimum trade potential. It is important to reduce the size of sensitive lists and remove non-tariff and para-tariff measures in regional trade. Population in South Asia is approximately one fifth of the world population, which provides a big market to the region.

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