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 Workshops, which took place on 25 and 27 April 2000 in Karachi and Islamabad, recalled that the SAARC member countries have undertaken a series of measures, in particular the operationalization of SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) 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 Workshops called for urgent action by the SAARC member countries to simplify, align and harmonize trade and transport documents and procedures.
The Workshops also recognized that a multiplicity of documentation and tariff requirements can act as an inhibiting factor to accelerating trade and that much benefit can be derived from reduction and simplification of trade and transport documents and procedures.
The Workshops observed that:
- The efforts by UN-ESCAP in organizing these Workshops are important and timely;
- Successful trade facilitation will help increase international trade, attract foreign direct investment, increase foreign exchange earnings and vitalize the domestic economy;
- There is ample scope for simplifying procedures and merging several existing trade documents;
- Simpler trade and transport procedures increase competitiveness and transparency;
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Electronic Commerce make for faster communications with a view to accelerating trade and transport activities;
- There is urgent need by both Government and private sector to jointly review the trade documentation and procedural requirements so that these may be streamlined and harmonized; and
- The National Trade and Transport Facilitation Committee set up by the Government of Pakistan is an important institutional mechanism for implementing trade facilitation measures and modernizing trade and transport practices.
The Workshops recommended the following:
- The simplification, alignment and harmonization of trade and transport documents and procedures should be introduced in all member countries of SAARC;
- The National Trade and Transport Facilitation Committee (NTTFC) should be the focal point for the sustained and continued effort by the Government of Pakistan and private sector to simplify the existing trade procedures and implement trade facilitation measures;
- UN-ESCAPís report on the review of the trade documents in Pakistan should complement the UNCTAD-assisted customs reform and trade facilitation activities;
- The UN-ESCAP report should be used by NTTFC as a resource document in its future work and NTTFC should adopt the proposed alignment of 14 trade documents mentioned on pages 105-106 of the UN-ESCAP report;
- The working document for this project was prepared last year (1999). It needs to be updated to take note of several changes since then in the regulatory framework in Pakistan; this work should be entrusted to Export Promotion Bureau who could consult with the Central Board of Revenue as well as other national agencies concerned; and
- UN-ESCAP should continue to support SAARC member countries in facilitating inter- and intra-subregional trade in the SAARC subregion and act as a focal point for advising member countries about the simplification of procedures and documentation in each SAARC member country;
- UN-ESCAP should help in developing Electronic Data Interchange and other Electronic Commerce techniques in Pakistan. The modalities of this assistance can be developed mutually between the Government of Pakistan and UN-ESCAP.