SAARC senior trade officials discuss contingency plan; Pakistan absent

Akhilesh Suman
TWITTER VIDEO GRAB POSTED BY @PIB_India ON SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020** New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video conference with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders on chalking out a plan to combat the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

TWITTER VIDEO GRAB POSTED BY @PIB_India ON SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020** New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video conference with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders on chalking out a plan to combat the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

SAARC senior trade officials on Wednesday held a video conference on the effort to combat the COVID -19 situation.

This was part of the follow up action to the announcement made by Prime Minister Modi at a video conference of SAARC leaders on March 15, 2020.

The leaders discussed the impact of travel restrictions and the COVID-19 situation on intra-regional trade. All SAARC countries, except Pakistan, took part in the video conference.

Demonstrating a keen interest in the present challenging circumstances, all countries contributed actively to the discussions on a wide-ranging trade related agenda.

It was recognized that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have a huge adverse impact on trade in the SAARC region.

All countries stressed the need to identify new ways and means to sustain and expand the intra-regional trade till the normal trade channels are fully restored.

The imperative need to maintain essential trade within the SAARC region was viewed as an important thrust area.

Specific issues addressed at the video conference included facilitation of trade through pragmatic solutions like provisional clearance of imports at preferential duty with suitable conditions, provisional acceptance of digitally signed certificates of origin, acceptance of scanned copies of documents for clearance of imports by customs and release of payments by banks, resolving issues being faced for exports and imports at land customs stations on land border.

Impact of health issues like COVID-19 on regional trade and possible measures to mitigate it was seen as a new focus area in the larger framework of trade facilitation in the SAARC region. The need to enhance the quantum of intra SAARC trade was also highlighted.