SAARC trade ministers may discuss SAFTA tomorrow in Maldives

The trade ministers of SAARC member countries, including India, will meet tomorrow in the Maldives and are expected to deliberate on issues like full implementation of the free trade pact between them.

“The meeting may discuss issues relating to administration and implementation of SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement) in order to achieve full potential of the agreement and to enhance intra—SAARC trade flows under SAFTA,” an official said.

India is pressing hard for implementation of the pact, which came into force on January 1, 2006, in its letter and spirit. The fifth meeting of the SAFTA Ministerial Council may also discuss matters relating to trade in services under the SAFTA.

The services sector contributes over 50 per cent to India’s economic growth. The SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) agreement on trade in services has so far been ratified by Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

From India, Commerce and Industry Minister, Mr Anand Sharma will attend the meeting.

Ways to enhance economic engagement between the member countries will also be discussed at the meeting. The last time the council met was in Kathmandu on October 28, 2009.

SAARC members include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Trade between the member countries (excluding Afghanistan) stood at $ 14.35 billion in 2010—11, an increase of 43.4 per cent vis—a—vis the same period in the previous fiscal. Afghanistan joined the group in May.


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