Kathmandu, April 7:

The government has formed a SAFTA Agreement Implementation Task Force recently in a bid to expedite the implementation of SAFTA framework in the country.

The six-member task force was formed in coordination with Naindra Prasad Upadhyaya, joint secretary at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies. Other members in the task force are from the ministry of finance, department of customs, department of industries and members from the industry ministry, commerce and supplies.

Naindra Prasad Upadhyaya, joint secretary at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies and coordinator of the task force informed The Himalayan Times that a trade liberalisation programme will actually start from August 1, despite the implementation of SAFTA from January 1, 2006. Homework has already started in reducing tariff rates on exportable items.

The major job of the task force is to work on sensitive list of products Nepal is going to export to other countries, as there is a mandatory provision as per the SAFTA agreement to reduce the tariff rate by 30 per cent on all exportable products within two years of SAFTA implementation.

Upadhayay said that the task would focus on how Nepal can reap benefits from SAFTA enforcement with its effective implementation. He also said that an action plan would be created to make SAFTA more effective in the days ahead.

The first meeting of the task force was held today at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies, informed Upadhyaya. A major decision of the task force meeting was to disseminate information regarding the earlier 12th Committee of Experts (CoE) meeting held in Kathmandu and start to work for tariff liberalisation mechanisms to expedite SAFTA enforcement.

Nepal has 1,300 products in the sensitive bracket, which will have to be reduced to about 1,000 products. products in the sensitive basket are ‘agriculture and industrial’ in nature.

Business sector organisations such as Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), Nepal Chamber of Commerce (NCC) and others have already expressed doubts on the benefit of SAFTA implementation due to lack of exportable products from Nepal.