New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) Pakistan is 'clearly violating' the SAFTA agreement in letter and spirit, thereby diluting the benefits of the regional free trade agreement, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Jairam Ramesh said here Monday.
'Pakistan is clearly violating the letter and spirit of the SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Area) agreement by maintaining and restricting the trade to the positive list,' Ramesh said on the sidelines of a five-day regional workshop organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat on 'Capacity building on gender, trade policy and export promotion for South Asia'.
Participants from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Nepal are participating in the meet that will focus on gender and trade issues.
Unlike other signatories to the SAFTA agreement that came into operation in January this year with the tariff agreement being implemented from July 1, Pakistan has not allowed for a freer trade with India, which is preventing benefits from flowing both ways.
'India would be taking up the issue during the next SAFTA ministerial meeting possibly in October,' the minister said.
He maintained that despite lack of trade progress with Pakistan, India was not for withdrawing from the SAFTA agreement as there were bound to be areas of pain alongside opportunities.
To ensure against adverse impact on employment and poverty eradication efforts, India had been working out issues with some of the other member countries.
'We have issued notice in case of Pakistan, while we have kept the commitment to provide better market access to Bangladesh,' Ramesh said.
At Bangladesh's request, India allowed the export of eight million additional items of stitched clothing. This is expected to help Dhaka raise its export earnings by $60-65 million.
India allowed concessions to Bangladesh in several other areas to address its grievance of imbalance in bilateral trade.
'Recently over a three-day meeting with Nepal commerce secretary, we raised the issue of Guatemalan cardamom flooding the Indian market via Nepal. Similarly, we have raised the issue of large pepper exports from Sri Lanka, which is harming the interests of Kerala farmers,' Ramesh said.
India has decided to clamp down and tighten vigilance against smuggling of Guatemalan cardamom while allowing duty free access to Nepal produce.
Similarly, India has proposed voluntary restraint and quantitative ceiling for duty free pepper exports from Sri Lanka to protect the interests of Indian plantations, the minister disclosed.
Addressing the meet, Ramesh said while globalisation had accrued definitive economic growth for Indian exports, the same could not be said for the micro-economic growth in areas that have not been exposed to benefits of liberalisation.
Urging more analytical studies on the micro impact of globalisation, Ramesh said the commerce ministry had sought funding from the Commonwealth Secretariat to create marketing infrastructure for the Ahmedabad based Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), which has been roped in to help women dominated exported oriented ventures in leather, handicrafts, handloom and minor forest produce.