India’s concession to Africa to cover 94 percent of imports

April 8th, 2008 - 5:30 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) As much as 94 percent of India’s import items notified for tariffs will be covered under the duty-free access scheme for least developed countries, mostly in Africa, unveiled by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday. Some of the items that will be of immediate interest to African exporters include cotton, cocoa, aluminium ores, copper ores, cashew nuts, cane sugar, readymade garments, fish fillets and non-industrial diamonds, officials said.

The prime minister announced the Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme for Least Developed Countries at the first India-Africa Summit here being attended by leaders of 14 African countries, including 10 heads of state and government.

“We recognise the crucial importance of market access in ensuring a development dimension of international trade,” Manmohan Singh told the inaugural session at the Vigyan Bhavan official conference complex here.

“The scheme will cover 94 percent of India’s total tariff lines. Specifically, it will provide preferential market access on tariff lines that comprise 92.5 percent of global exports of all least developed countries,” he added.

“As I look into the 21st century, I am convinced that the free people of a new Africa and a new India will come even closer, through mutually beneficial relationships based on equality and fraternity.”

Commerce ministry officials said India was the second developing country member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) after Brazil to offer such a major package for 50 least developing countries, 34 of them in Africa.

“We have fulfilled the promise made under the Honk Kong Declaration,” said a top commerce ministry official, referring to the WTO Ministerial Meeting in December 2005 where concessions were proposed to these countries.

“Our commitment is for duty-free, quota-free access. We will certainly work on the rules of origin, but it may not be as stringent,” the official added.

The rules of origin demand certain minimum value addition to merchandise exports to qualify for duty-free access. Otherwise, exports from developed countries can be re-routed and can go against the spirit of the preferential concession.

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