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Sri Lanka urges removal of non-tariff barriers to South Asia trade
16 Feb, 2012 17:50:04
Feb 16, 2012 (LBO) - Sri Lanka has called for the removal of non-tariff barriers to trade in South Asia, saying reducing or elimination of tariffs alone is not enough to increase intra – regional trade.
The volume of trade among South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation member states has still not reached anywhere near the desired level, Sri Lanka minister of industry and commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said.

In addition to removal of tariffs, removal of non-tariff barriers and effective trade facilitation measures are quite vital to make the South Asia Free Trade Agreement a success, he told a meeting of the SAFTA Ministerial Council in Islamabad, Pakistan Thursday.

"Simplification and harmonization of customs procedures, mutual recognition for standards, testing and conformity assessment and transport facilitation are very important measures that we need to introduce on a priority basis."

He said one of the obstacles was "the long Sensitive Lists", which include most of the tradable products in the region, on which trade concessions like removal of import tariffs are not given.

"Further, there are also hidden barriers such as the lack of transparency, procedural delays and inefficient administrative procedures or red-tape," a statement quoted Bathiudeen as saying.

While calling for the removal of non-tariff barriers Sri Lanka itself recently raised taxes on a series of imported good including nutritious foods eaten by the people.

Nationalist autarkists had called for a complete ban on fruit imports, further restrictions on wheat imports and even banning the feeding of bread to patients in state hospitals.

Powerful nationalist businesses have also successfully scuppered an expanded free trade deal with India.

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