June 20, 2018,
India and her neighbours have for the first time decided and agreed on common standards for biscuits, refined sugar and milk products that will reduce the need for inspections at borders and give a major impetus to movement of these goods in South Asia.
This action could serve as a guide for bigger partnerships within the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations such as the South Asian Economic Union, experts said. Besides India, the members of the grouping are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Saarc has finalized requirements related to packaging, marking, labeling and sampling of biscuits and refined sugar to reduce intra-regional trade costs and non-tariff barriers to trade in the region.
Apart from biscuits and refined sugar, the South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) has set standards for production, processing and handling of milk and milk products. “SARSO has arrived at regulatory standards for three products. These regional standards will help these goods across borders in Saarc countries,” said an official aware of the details. In 2017-18 India exported goods worth $22.9 billion to Saarc partners and imported goods worth $3.2 billion.
“Agriculture and food items are most important areas in Saarc region. Hence, standards have been made for these first,” said one of the official. If some countries are using different standards from that of the organization, individual countries will have to make necessary changes to implement the regional standards. “Now we don’t need to check if individual countries’ standards are being complied with,” the second official said.
To bring into effect, the common standards will have to be notified by the regulatory authority of each country.