ATTOCK  – The Attock Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) on Sunday said extensive sensitive lists being maintained by different countries is hindering progress and growth of trade within Saarc region.

The last two decades have witnessed a number of attempts by South Asian countries to promote intra-regional trade through several agreements but with limited success, it said.

Main reason behind reduced intra-Saarc trade which is hovering around four per cent of the total trade is large negative trade lists maintained by the member countries which has left all efforts to boost trade almost unsuccessful, said Tariq Mehmood, President ACCI.

Speaking to business community, he said that all Saarc nations are providing protection to sectors considered unfit for competition like infant industry, small-scale producers, and agricultural products.  All countries of the grouping must realise that trade agreements could be beneficial only when negative lists are maintained on merit and for a specific period to be phased out eventually, he added.

Tariq Mehmood said that all Saarc countries should be made to review the sensitive lists for reduction every two years under the tariff liberalisation programme of SAFTA.

Insisting on merit and careful examination in preparing sensitive lists, he said that sectors with strong domestic lobbies get included in the list despite fitness for competition which is against the spirit of SAFTA.

Lauding the Indian move to reduce sensitive trade list by 30 per cent, Tariq Mehmood said that New Delhi being the largest economy in the grouping should take lead in liberalising imports and further pruning sensitive list. Our leader Tariq Sayeed has been working day and night since decades to ensure peace in region through increased trade without which Saarc will remain home to majority of the poor in the world, he said.

He said that business community under the leadership of Sayeed we will continue to strive for positive competition, equitable benefits, transparency, integrity, reduction of tariffs and barriers and increased cooperation to achieve goal of deeper cooperation and integration.

Saarc nations cannot progress except optimist, open and positive approach which will benefit around two billion people, said president ACCI Tariq Mehmood.