Interaction Programme on Harmonization of Non-Tariff Barriers in South Asia
As part of a regional project “Cost of Economic Non-Cooperation to Consumers in South Asia, Phase II (COENCOSA-II)”, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), in collaboration with the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI), organized an interaction programme titled “Removal/Harmonization of Non-Tariff Barriers in South Asia” on 29 April 2013 in Kathmandu.
Making the key presentation, Mr Purushottam Ojha, former Commerce Secretary of the Government of Nepal, said that most of the NTBs in South Asia are related to technical standards. Therefore, he stressed on harmonizing standards among member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); strengthening regional bodies like the South Asian Regional Standards Organisation (SARSO); developing and strengthening national laboratories; enhancing capacity and skills of human resources; among others. Dr Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, SAWTEE, and also Chair of the session, said that though tariff rates in South Asia have come down as a result of liberalization, intra-regional trade has not expanded as expected because of the prevalence of the non-transparent, discretionary and unpredictable nature of NTBs. Therefore, it is necessary to address the problems associated with NTBs to enhance intra-regional trade in South Asia.
Mr Pradeep Kumar Shrestha, Vice Chairperson, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was also of the same opinion as he stated that intra-regional trade in South Asia has not risen as per the potential mainly due to the imposition of NTBs by SAARC countries. Mr Jib Raj Koirala, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, said that the private sector should work closely with the government in identifying and resolving issues related to NTBs. Mr Shanker Prasad Pandeya, Executive Member of FNCCI and Chairperson of Trade Committee, highlighted the additional cost of doing business being created due to the prevalence of NTBs as a result of which consumers are paying high prices. Likewise, Mr Ramesh Chandra Poudel, Vice Chairperson, Forum for Protection of Consumer Rights, raised the issue of additional costs that consumers are bearing due to NTBs.
Over 90 participants, representing the private sector, academia, government officials and the media participated in the programme.