SAARC to have common stand on Doha round

Kathmandu, November 27:

The SAARC member countries have decided to take a common stand on various issues under the Doha Round of negotiations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for fostering increased regional trade.

“The Geneva-based ambassadors of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries will meet to find a common stance on the Doha Round and Bangladeshi envoy will take lead,” Purushottam Ojha, commerce secretary told this daily today.

Ojha recently led a Nepali delegation in the two-day long SAARC committee on economic cooperation (CEC) meeting held in Dhaka. As per the 13th SAARC-CEC meeting, Bangla-desh will coordinate the SAARC group in Geneva.

During the meeting, the SAARC member countries also decided to undertake a new project to ensure cooperation for development of the small and medium enterprises in the region.

The meeting also endorsed the recommendations made by the standing group on standards to establish a South Asian Regional Standard Organisation (SARSO), which will be located in Dhaka at the premises of Bangladesh Standard Testing Institute. Nepal has proposed a testing laboratory for regional standards. The meeting underscored the need for exploring the potentials of renewable energy and biotechnology through regional cooperation to meet the mounting energy demand in the region.

India, that has expertise in renewable energy, will undertake necessary actions in this regard. Regarding issuance of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) certificate of origin, the meeting decided that all the member states would inform the SAARC secretariat of all the

certificates issued by each country every six months.

It also decided to scale down the sensitive list to ensure benefit to the least developed countries (LDCs) in the regional trade. During the meeting, India informed that it will unilaterally provide duty-free access to the LDC member states on items which are not in the sensitive list by 2007. The representatives at the meeting also called for elimination of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers to boost intra-regional trade.

They also discussed the current status of trade cooperation, study on potential of trade in services under SAFTA agreement, regional connectivity, draft agreement on promotion and protection of investments, establishment of SAARC arbitration council, and visa facilitation.

Representatives from all the eight SAARC member countries were present during the meeting in the Bangladeshi capital. The SAARC CEC was constituted on the recommendation of Council of Ministers at the ninth session in the Maldives.