Preferential Trading In South Asia

Published By: The World Bank Group | Published Date: January, 01 , 2006

This paper examines the economic case for the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Agreement signed on January 6 th, 2004 by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives. It starts with a detailed analysis of the preferential trading arrangements in South Asia to look at the region's experience to date and to draw lessons. Specifically, the study examines the most effective free trade area in existence, i.e., the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Area, and evaluates the developments under the South Asian Preferential Trade Area (SAPTA). The paper concludes that, considered in isolation, the economic case for SAFTA is quite weak. When compared with the rest of the world, the region is tiny both in terms of economic size as measured by GDP (and per capita incomes) and the share in the world trade. It is argued that prima facie, these facts make it likely that trade diversion would be dominant as a result of SAFTA. This point is reinforced by the presence of high levels of protection in the region and the tendency of the member countries to establish highly restrictive ‘sectoral exceptions/sensitive lists' and stringent 'rules of origin'.

Author(s): Tercan Baysan, Arvind Panagariya, Nihal Pitigala | Posted on: Feb 21, 2016 | Views() | Download (256)

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