New Delhi: India has reduced the number of items in the sensitive list for SAARC's non-least developed countries (NLDCs) like Pakistan, a move which will further expand trade in goods in the region.

The Cabinet on Friday approved reduction of 30 percent or 264 such items for NLDCs that are contained under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

"This shall reduce India’s sensitive list for Pakistan from 878 to 614 tariff lines," an official statement said on Saturday.

"With this decision India has effectively performed its lead role in harmonising the SAFTA framework and ensuring move towards a vibrant economic community and move towards normalisation of trade relations with Pakistan," it said.

The peak tariff rates for non-least developed nations would now be reduced to 5 percent within three years as per agreed SAFTA process of tariff liberalisation, the statement said.

Shifting of items from sensitive list to general category lead to reduction in duties and boost trade.

Under the SAFTA, which came into force in July 2006, India's imports are classified under two lists-- the MFN list and sensitive list.

India's sensitive list for least developed countries (LDC) like Bangladesh has just 25 items. And the same for non-LDC like Pakistan contains 878 commodities.

The statement said India has, in the last one year, steered the trade liberalisation process under the agreement so as to accelerate the pace of the process for SAFTA Economic Integration.

A major step in this direction was taken in November 2011 when India unilaterally reduced its sensitive list for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to 25 items while allowing all other imports at zero basic customs duty.

"Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal benefited as a result of this trade liberalisation move," it said.

Further liberalisation of trade will be discussed in next meeting of the Commerce Secretaries of India and Pakistan, the statement said.

SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) members consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan and India.


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