Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said India is strongly backing the need for putting in place an Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment for better regional integration and cooperation.

Mr. Sharma said there was an immediate need among SAARC nations to focus on establishing a framework for cooperation in the field of investments. To achieve this, it is important that an agreement should be concluded as early as possible, possibly before the next summit of head of states from SAARC nations next year.

Asserting that India had already taken steps for trade liberalisation, Mr. Sharma said India would soon notify the agreed tariff reduction schedules for the Non Least Developing Countries (NLDCs) of SAARC in order to give the required impetus to greater export opportunities for all its SAARC neighbours. At the same time he suggested that other NLDCs should also consider reviewing their negatives lists with respect to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) of SAARC.

“I suggest that the NLDCs could also consider reviewing their lists in respect of NLDCs so that intra-SAARC trade could further be expanded,” he added. He said India unilaterally reduced the negative list with reference to NLDCs from 740 to below 500 and it was also working towards reduction of negative list with reference to NLDCs of SAARC.

Lauding the steps for establishment of South Asian Regional Standards Organisation (SARSO), Mr. Sharma said it would go a long way in harmonization of standards and would help in greater regional trade integration. “This would be a significant step towards removal of non-tariff barriers to trade within the SAARC region,” he said.

Highlighting that significant progress had been made in the text of the draft SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS), Mr. Sharma said this would lead to greater integration of our trade barriers. “India attaches great importance to regional cooperation among all the SAARC countries and our presence here is a reaffirmation of our commitment to a vibrantly cooperation region,” he said.

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