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Published Date: Jul 4, 2013

Preparatory talks held for WTO meeting

Preparing for the upcoming ministerial meeting of the World Trade
Organisation (WTO) in Bali this year, a Pakistani delegation attended
Track-II preparatory meeting in Sri Lanka, calling for adopting a common
regional position.

The delegation, comprising officials of governmental and
non-governmental organisations, joined participants in unanimously
demanding that South Asian countries should adopt a common position
which must go beyond the standard discourse and focus on sectoral
priorities in areas, such as agriculture, food security, climate change,
trade facilitation, aid for trade and intellectual property rights.

They demanded commerce ministries in Saarc countries to take a
coordinating role and bring other national institutions on a shared
vision for global and regional trade.

It was observed that there are four Saarc member countries still fall in the category of least developed countries (LDCs).

These countries were suggested to address issues, such as market
access, services waiver, along with issues of expeditious accession of
Afghanistan and Bhutan.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director of Sustainable Development
Policy Institute (SDPI), drew the attention of Saarc countries towards
their supply-side bottlenecks which are preventing trade and investment
integration and also creating hurdles in regional solution to food
security and climate change.

In case of Pakistan, he observed that after dismal performance of
national trade corridor project, it has become increasingly important
for the new government to give due importance to ‘National Trade
Facilitation Strategy 2012’.

He argued that while regional neighbours, such as India and Sri
Lanka, have moved towards integrated customs check-posts and one-window
operations at the borders, Pakistan’s handling of cargo is still risky
and uncertain.

The bottom line goals for any trade facilitation strategy should be
simplification, standardisation and harmonisation of process and
procedures, he said.

Other participants noted that amid skepticism regarding the future of
Doha Development Agenda, there are high expectations of 159 member
countries in WTO.