4 August 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
Recommendations and Conclusions for
Facilitating intra- and inter-subregional trade
In the SAARC region
The Workshop, which took place on 3-4 August 2000 in New Delhi, recalled that SAARC member countries have undertaken a series of measures, in particular the operationalisation of SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) and a commitment towards the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). 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, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and others have drawn attention to the urgent imperative to align, harmonize and simplify trade and industry procedures and trade documents.
The SAARC member countries have also agreed on the important role that trade facilitation measures and electronic commerce can play in invigorating intra-SAARC trade. In this regard, the Workshop recommended that the SAARC member countries take urgent actions to simplify, align and harmonize trade and transport documents and procedures. In this connection, the national workshops held in Nepal and Pakistan as well as the work carried out by ESCAP in Bangladesh, Maldives and Sri Lanka were noted as valuable contributions to promote the adoption of trade facilitation measures.
The Workshop recognised that a multiplicity of documentation and procedural 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 and successful trade facilitation will help increase international trade, attract foreign direct investment, increase foreign exchange earnings and vitalize the domestic economy.
The Workshop observed that:
- the efforts by UN-ESCAP in organising the series of workshops are important and timely;
- there is ample scope for simplifying procedures and merging several existing trade documents;
- simpler trade and transport procedures increase competitiveness and transparency;
- as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Electronic Commerce accelerate trade and transport activities, there is need for infrastructure development such as telecommunication at the national level. In this context, it was noted with interest the decision at the recent G-8 Summit to assist developing countries in this endeavour;
- there is urgent need to review the trade documentation and procedural requirements so that these may be streamlined and harmonised;
- some of the other priority issues to facilitate trade and transit included the following:
- development of uniform quality control activities and harmonization of standards, procedures and systems for inspection, quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) and accreditation;
- developing uniform and simplified procedures for movement of goods across borders including aspects related to developing and improving transportation, common links and facilities;
- joint initiatives for developing human resource in all related areas including building up of knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivational aspects and transfer of technology;
- development of uniform import and export services and all support services including banking and financial services;
- institutional mechanism for the settlement of commercial disputes;
- recognizing the needs of land-locked countries;
- recognizing the need for diversification of product base for exports;
- modernization and simplification of customs procedures; and
- there is a need to recognize the role and contribution of service providers like national freight forwarders, insurers, transporters, etc. in promoting facilitation initiatives.
The Workshop recommended the following:
- The simplification, alignment and harmonization of trade and transport documents and procedures may be introduced in all member countries of SAARC using internationally accepted trade facilitation standards and tools;
- As national level trade and transportation facilitation committees, representing government and the private sector, have played a useful role in simplifying the existing trade procedures and adopting trade facilitation measures, countries which do not have such a committee, may consider establishing such a focal point;
- UN-ESCAP should continue to support SAARC member countries in facilitating inter- and intra-SAARC trade;
- UN-ESCAP should help in developing Electronic Data Interchange and other Electronic Commerce techniques in SAARC member countries. The modalities of this assistance can be developed mutually between the Governments and UN-ESCAP; and
- SAARC nations may consider joint MOU for operationalisation of the recommendations of the Workshop in cooperation with UN-ESCAP and SAARC Secretariat.
Last updated: 16 August 2000