28 July 2000
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Subregional Workshop on Facilitating intra- and inter-subregional Trade
in the SAARC subregion
3-4 August 2000
New Delhi, India
The Workshop, which took place on 1-2 March 2000 in Kathmandu, recalled that in recognition of the importance of regional economic cooperation, the SAARC Member Countries have undertaken a series of measures, in particular the operationalization of SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) which has so far completed three rounds of trade negotiations and a commitment towards the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). The SAARC Member Countries have also agreed on the important role that trade facilitation measures can play in invigorating intra-SAARC trade. In this regard, the Workshop recalled that different SAARC bodies, like the Group on Customs Cooperation, the Inter-Governmental Group on Trade Negotiations under SAPTA, the Committee on Economic Cooperation and others have drawn attention to the urgent imperative to align, harmonize and simplify trade procedures and trade documents. The Workshop also recognized that a multiplicity of documentation and tariff requirements, including those that may arise due to bilateral treaties, can act as an inhibiting factor to accelerating trade and that much benefit can indeed be derived from reduction and simplification of trade documents and procedures.
The Workshop observed that:
- The efforts by ESCAP, in organizing this Workshop and focussing on the role the multiplicity of trade documents plays as a barrier to trade, is important and timely;
- Successful trade facilitation will increase international trade, attract foreign direct investment, increase foreign exchange and vitalize the domestic economy;
- There is ample scope for simplifying procedures and merging several of these documents;
- Simpler trade procedures increase competitiveness and transparency;
- There is urgent need by both Government and private sector to jointly review the documentation and procedural requirements so that these may be streamlined and harmonized;
- Some electronic commerce techniques are integral part of the ASYCUDA portion of the Customs reform programme as well as the Automated Cargo Control System (ACIS) which is currently being installed with the assistance of UNCTAD;
- Electronic delivery of goods and services, such as software and multimedia products, will create a challenge for tax collectors which, eventually, will need to be addressed; and
- This project should reinforce the importance of mutual cooperation between ESCAP and UNCTAD.
The Workshop recommended the following:
- The alignment, harmonization and simplification of trade documents and trade procedures should cover all member countries of SAARC;
- The National Trade and Transport Facilitation Committee (NTTFC) established in Nepal in 1998, should be the focal point for the sustained and continued effort by the Government and private sector to simplify the existing trade procedures and implement trade facilitation measures;
- ESCAPís report on the review of the Nepalese trade documents should complement the UNCTAD-assisted customs reform and trade facilitation activities;
- The ESCAP report may be used by NTTFC as a resource document in its future work; and
- It was recommended by some participants that a joint India-Nepal Workshop may be convened at the earliest to discuss trade and transit facilitation and in particular, to examine the possibility of harmonizing, aligning and simplifying documentation and procedural requirements.
Last updated: 16 August 2000