The agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) has so far remained inoperative due to some functional procedures, although it was put into effect on July 1 this year, reports UNB.
"The member countries could not yet complete some procedures to make it operational," a senior commerce ministry official told the news agency.
The SAFTA was put into effect with a pre-set tariff-cut roadmap aimed at boosting regional trade among the seven nations of SAARC, but trades had been taking place in last one and a half months without enjoying the facilities.
As the SAFTA roadmap, the developing members are to bring down their tariffs to 0-5 per cent in three years while the SAARC LDCs like Bangladesh will do that in 10 years.
Officials in the city could not give any timeframe to complete the procedures and give the real effect to the agreement concluded after tough negotiations for three years.
The member countries were working on a specified form of certificate of origin, which will certify a product to be eligible for the tariff-cut under the agreement.
Specimen signatures of the authorised officials of a member country will also be required to exchange through the SAARC Secretariat for appraisal by the customs authorities of the member countries. The authorised officials will sign the certificate of origin.
The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) of Bangladesh is now working on the procedures, but is not aware about the progress by other members.
"We've not yet officially received the list of products to be eligible for the tariff reduction under the agreement," EPB Vice Chairman Mir Shahabuddin Mohammed said.
He, however, said it will not be a problem for the legal procedures to be complete but the problem lies with the lower level of bureaucracy, particularly on the Indian side.
FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain, however, feared another dimension over the SAFTA fate - India and Pakistan relations. "It threatens the whole SAFTA concept," he said.
Local businesses, however, feared that non-tariff and para-tariff barriers would be a stumbling block to reaping immediate benefits out of the agreement.
They viewed that it would not yield desired results without removing the NTBs and PTBs. "Even zero tariffs will not help achieve what we want from the SAFTA agreement," said a leading businessman.
The SAFTA Ministerial Council at their first meeting, however, had formed a subgroup on the NTBs and PTBs to remove the trade barriers as soon as possible.
It would review the existing NTBs and PTBs from time to time, identify the barriers and take steps to remove the snags through bilateral and regional negotiations.