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Trade Facilitation Measures in South Asian FTAs: An Overview of Initiatives and Policy Approaches [2006/07]

Project Team: Dr. Sachin Chaturvedi

Several South Asian countries have joined the current wave of bilateral and subregional free trade agreements (FTAs) in the region. Though intra-regional trade has expanded over the years, it remain far below its potential as not enough attention is being paid to the launching of trade facilitation (TF) measures. RIS with support from ARTNeT, UNESCAP, Bangkok, conducted a study to take a stock of incorporation of TF measures in the various FTAs in South Asia. The study also looked into the individual initiatives being made by the South Asian countries for advancement of trade facilitation especially in the context of Articles V, VIII and X. The TF measures assume importance in the context of intra-regional trade in South (From left): Hon’ble External Affairs Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee at the inaugural session of the RIS/SACEPS Regional Conference on Economic Cooperation in SAARC: SAFTA and Beyond, held in New Delhi on 19 March 2007. Others in the picture (from left): are Dr. Nagesh Kumar; Dr. Arjun Sengupta, M.P. and Chairman, RIS and Co-Chairman, SACEPS; Mr. Sayed Babar Ali, Co-Chairman, SACEPS; and Dr. Sridhar Khatri, Executive Director, SACEPS, Kathmandu RIS Annual Report 2006/07 11 Asian infrastructural constraints at the land custom stations, under the Article V, and are the major challenges to be addressed. The current texts of FTAs are not very assuring in this regard. Insufficient efforts are being made to overcome TF related constraints. Except in the Indo-Singapore FTA, which later graduated to a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) not many FTAs have detailed provisions for capacity building and for measures related to infrastructure development. The study explored whether regional cooperation may help achieve some of these objectives as is being attempted through SAARC. The study was presented at the ARTNeT Workshop held in Bangkok in August 2006. Subsequently, a revised version has been submitted.