Speaking at a recent summit, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to India as a bright spot in the global economy. India’s rapid domestic growth and growing integration with global trade, technology and financial flows support his assertion; yet, all this is not translating into peak progress in South Asia, to which New Delhi avowedly assigns high priority. Despite India climbing nine positions in the Ease of Doing Business index (164 to 155 – out of 180 countries), its ranking vis-a-vis facilitating border trade (133) remains unchanged since the last five years.
In the absence of timely reforms to bolster food security in South Asia, Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and administrative measures for trade facilitation have emerged as the biggest concern to South Asia’s food trade. 86 percent of South Asia’s food trade remains crippled with non-standard implementation of SPS and TBT measures.
This research study, conducted by the Centre for Policy Research in partnership with CUTS International and the Asia Foundation, identifies and provides recommendations to reduce NTMs to food trade in South Asia. The study analyses the non-tariff landscape that food imports entering India face at six Indian land and sea ports – Agartala (Tripura), Attari (Punjab), Chennai (Tamilnadu), Mumbai (Maharashtra), Panitanki (West Bengal) and Petrapole (West Bengal).
The central findings of the report are that deeper integration and harmonisation of SPS measures, TBT and administrative measures for trade facilitation can greatly help to improve the food security framework in South Asia. More inter-agency coordination, capacity building for the relevant authorities, transparency in testing procedures, and trained personnel at the border trading posts will help result in improved food trade in the sub-continent and with the United Kingdom. Addressing some of the infrastructural issues at many of these trading posts will help reduce time costs and facilitate trade better.