Leaders commit to South Asian ‘economic union’

  • 18th saarc summit
- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Leaders commit to South Asian ‘economic union’

Nov 27, 2014-

The 18th Saarc Summit concluded here on Thursday with a renewed commitment to achieve the “South Asian Economic Union” in a phased and planned manner through a free trade area, a customs union, a common market, and a common economic and monetary union.

The leaders expressed strong determination to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity by intensifying cooperation in trade, investment, finance, energy, security, infrastructure, connectivity and culture. They vowed to implement projects and programmes in a prioritised, result-oriented and time-bound manner.

Amid structural constraints that have resulted in weak productive capacity affecting the trade competitiveness, the leaders committed to enhance support to least developed and landlocked member states in their development efforts with a view to ensuring equitable benefits of free trade arrangements.

“In this context, the existing preferential facilities under South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) and Saarc Agreement on Trade in Services (Satis) will be implemented effectively,” read the declaration.

The leaders have directed the Safta Ministerial Council and the Safta Committee of Experts to accelerate free trade in goods and services in the region putting into operation simplified and transparent rules of origin, implementing trade facilitation measures, harmonising standards relating to technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures.

Simplifying customs procedures, elimination of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers and smooth and efficient transit and transport facilities were among the measures the leaders have vowed to implement.

They agreed to strengthen the social window of the Saarc Development Fund and operationalise its economic and infrastructure windows at the earliest for effective implementation of regional and sub-regional projects.

The heads of state welcomed the significant progress towards the finalisation of the Saarc Motor Vehicles Agreement and Saarc Regional Railways Agreement, and agreed to hold a meeting of transport ministers within the next three months to finalise the agreements for approval. The leaders renewed their commitment to substantially enhance regional connectivity in a seamless manner through building and upgrading roads, railways, waterways infrastructure, energy grids, communications and air links to ensure smooth cross-border flow of goods, services, capital, technology and people.

In the agriculture sector, the member states agreed to boost investment and promote research and development, facilitate technical cooperation and apply innovative, appropriate technologies to enhance productivity to ensure food and nutritional security. The leaders directed to eliminate the threshold criteria from the Saarc Food Bank agreement so as to enable the member states to avail food grains, during both emergency and normal food difficulty. They also urged for early ratification of the Saarc Seed Bank agreement and directed to constitute the Seed Bank Board, pending completion of ratification by all member states.

To boost tourism, the leaders agreed to make South Asia an attractive common tourist destination. They directed relevant bodies to effectively implement Saarc Action Plan on Tourism (2006) particularly through initiating appropriate public-private collaboration.

Published: 28-11-2014 09:32

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