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Working Group Regional Trade Facilitation

Introduction of WG-RTF

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was established in 1985 to create strong regional integration and cooperation amongst the member states. This diplomatic agreement had the objective of accelerated economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region. On the economic front, even with various efforts on trade liberalization over the years, the region still remains least integrated, with intra-regional trade hovering around 5%.

SAARC-TPN, supported with Technical Assistance by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), also focusses on regional trade facilitation among others. The SAARC-TPN is a network of 28 key public and private sector national and regional trade promoting institutions from all eight SAARC countries who through this networking platform work for the promotion of intra-regional trade.

One of the thematic working groups of SAARC-TPN, Working Group-Regional Trade Facilitation (WG-RTF), aims to introduce and implement new approaches of trade facilitation and promotion measures in order to promote regional trade and deepen regional linkages in SAARC.

With the involvement of trade experts, including the representatives of International Trade Center (ITC), the WG-RTF facilitates to identify priorities and construct recommendations to relevant representatives of the respective government agencies and SAARC committees to reduce barriers of trade and promote intra-regional trade.

“NTMs in South Asia: Assessment and Analysis”, a study conducted by Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) and South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SAMEN) supported by SAARC-TPN analyzes Non-Tariff Measures (NTMs) and their impact on producers and traders in the SAARC region. The study highlights prevailing NTMs, examines them and constructs a framework to monitor and identify priority products. The priority product is selected from the list of products with high trade potential for intra-regional trade. Furthermore, the study also makes comparison of the export capacity with the actual export in the context of bilateral trade among the South Asian countries.

 As per the recommendation of the study, piloting NTM desks have already been initiated and formalized in threeSAARC countries: Bangladesh (FBCCI), Nepal (CNI), and Pakistan (FPCCI). The fourth one is in the process of establishment in India (FICCI), the centrally located country in SAARC which is by far the largest trading partner of the member states. The NTM-desks is expected to be replicated in all 8 SAARC countries soon.

Recognizing the need to collect and compile NTMs and trade related barriers in a harmonized manner, the study has also created a template to be used by the NTM Desks. This unique monitoring tool used for collecting prevailing NTMs includes cost, time and procedural steps. Collection of NTM and Non-Tariff Barriers issues of the two prioritized sectors of the WG-SME is one of the major focuses.   

On the basis of the case studies and factual information collected by the NTM desks and other sources, the partners and members of WG-RTF plan to further create a structured policy advocacy strategy and action plan to reduce NTMs and thus promote regional trade.  The recommendations will be forwarded to the representatives of the respective government agencies as well as SAARC Committees for further action.  

WG-RTF members:

Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI)
Confederation of Nepalese Industry (CNI)
Department of Commerce, Sri Lanka (DoC)
Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI)
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)
Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI)
Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bangladesh (MCCI)
SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SCCI)

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