Trade negotiators of the regional bloc BIMSTEC will meet in Delhi on January 21-22 to resolve the rules of origin (ROO) dispute which is critical to a deal on 'trade on goods', sources said.
Disagreement emerged after Nepal proposed that 25 per cent value-added products of least-developed countries should be treated as 'local product' while fixing the rules of origin.
But other countries wanted to set it at 30 per cent, a senior official of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) headquarters told the FE on Wednesday.
The BIMSTEC is a regional economic bloc comprising seven member states-Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
"If we can reach a consensus on the issue, the deal on 'trade on goods' can be done this year," said the official who is involved in the negotiation process.
The likely deal might pave the way for kick-starting free trade in the BIMSTEC region, he mentioned.
The free trade agreement (FTA) could help intra-BIMSTEC trade grow up to $240 billion from the currently estimated $40 billion, the official said.
"Defining a local product in the operational certification procedure is part of trade on goods. But we hope member countries would sort out differences in the upcoming meeting," he added.
The much-hyped FTA was due to take off in 2005, but it could not be operationalised for differences between two big countries of the seven-nation bloc-India and Thailand.
In the recent spell of the trade negotiations-the last round in Dhaka last year-both India and Thailand reached a consensus on major issues like product lists.
It was agreed that by February 28 this year, the countries would submit their final product lists by revising the previously submitted ones.
While revising, they can change the category-like fast-track elimination or fast-track reduction-of maximum 10 per cent of the products, officials said.
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