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India announces major trade sops at SAARC

November 10, 2011 18:41 IST

In a major trade liberalisation effort in South Asia, India today drastically slashed the sensitive list for Least Developed Countries under SAFTA from 480 tariff lines to just 25 under which zero basic customs duty will be given for all the removed items.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made this declaration to a thunderous applause from the Heads of Government and State at the inauguration of the 17th Summit of the eight-nation SAARC grouping.  Leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal which comprise the Least Developed Countries (LDC) in South Asia were among those present to hear Singh's announcement.

In his speech, that was heard with rapt attention, Singh also said that he recognised that non-tariff barriers were an area of concern and India was committed to the idea of free and balanced growth of trade in South Asia.

Emphasising that integration of SAARC economies should move faster at a comfortable pace, he said India has special responsibilities that flow from the geography of the region and the size of its economy and market.

"I am happy to announce that, in a major trade liberalisation effort, the Government of India has issued a notification to reduce the Sensitive List for the Least Developed Countries under the South Asian Free Trade Area Agreement from 480 tariff lines to 25 tariff lines. Zero basic customs duty access will be given for all items removed with immediate effect," he said.

With 'Building Bridges' as its theme, the Summit hosted by Maldives in the southern most point of the island lying south of equator, is being attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina among others.
Snehesh Alex Philip and V S Chandrasekar in Addu (Maldives)
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