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Published Date: Jul 3, 2013

SDPI Press Release (July 3, 2013)

A
three member Pakistani delegation have attended the track-II preparatory
meeting held in Marawila, Sri Lanka to finalise the collective position of
SAARC countries for upcoming ‘9th Ministerial Conference Meeting’ of World
Trade Organization (WTO) to be held in Bali, Indonesia this year.

The
members of Pakistani delegation included Anjum Assad Amin, Joint Secretary,
Ministry of Commerce, Islamabad; Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director,
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Shafqat Munir from Oxfam
GB.

The
participants of the meeting unanimously demanded South Asian countries to 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 which still come under
the banner 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.

Speaking
at the occasion, Dr. Vaqar Ahmed 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 new government to
give due importance to ‘National Trade Facilitation Strategy 2012’.

Dr
Vaqar 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,
standardization and harmonization of process and procedures.

Other
participants noted that amidst scepticism regarding the future of Doha
Development Agenda, there are high expectations of 159 member countries in WTO.
The process of conducting upcoming 9th Ministerial Committee meeting is still
very loose with no definite agenda till now but it is expected to discuss trade
facilitation, LDC Package, agriculture and climate change.

Participants
hoped that 9th Ministerial Committee meeting should at least develop a
consensus on set of achievable targets for ensuring that Doha Development
Agenda runs smoothly. The meeting concluded with a demand from all national
governments to consult the business community, civil society organizations,
media groups and consumer protection entities in their own countries for
framing a comprehensive intervention at Bali.