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Preetam asked: What are the achievements of SAFTA and its future prospects?

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  • Smruti S. Pattanaik replies: SAFTA was ratified in 2006. Under SAFTA, trade concessions are offered to two categories of countries – the LDCs and non-LDCs. It provides unilateral concession on 4,536 tariff lines to the five LDC countries of South Asia. India has now announced zero tariffs to the LDC countries. The tariff reduction is contained in article 7 of SAFTA. For smooth implementation, SAFTA has established a committee of experts to review its progress. They help the SAARC ministerial council consisting of Commerce Ministers who periodically review the working of SAFTA. The seventh meeting was held in February this year. This meeting reviewed the revised sensitive list in phase two where each country is required to bring down the sensitive list to adhere to zero tariffs within the timeframe envisaged by SAFTA.

    SAFTA has trade facilitation measures contained in Article 8. Trade within the region is increasing and in August last year the intra regional trade was US$ 1.3 billion. SAFTA process would get a boost with increased connectivity within the region and establishment of multi-modal transport network that will facilitate free trade.