SAARC summit ends with call to accelerate trade
The curtain came down on the two-day SAARC summit here Friday with the South Asian grouping's leaders pushing for trade liberalisation and a host of initiatives that include setting up a Rapid Action Force to combat natural disasters.
Closing the summit, Maldives President Mohammad Nasheed, the host and chair, announced a set of decisions that included commitments to reducing trade barriers, strengthening investment and enhancing connectivity.
"It was decided by consensus to direct the SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement) ministerial council to reduce the sensitive list and non-tariff barriers," Nasheed said.
Nasheed also thanked India for its initiative in deciding to reduce the sensitive lists for the least developed countries under SAFTA from 480 tariff lines (categories in a country's tariff schedule) to 25.
The SAARC leaders also also directed the finance ministers of their countries to explore avenues for more investment in the region. They also decided to conclude a railway agreement and a motor vehicles agreement before the next meeting of the SAARC council of ministers, expected some time in 2012.
Nasheed also announced Nepal will host the 18th SAARC summit in 2012.
The Maldivian President said the Summit also mandated the Finance Ministers to discuss a mechanism to promote capital flows and investment.
With 'Building Bridges' as its theme, the Summit agreed to move ahead on a regional railways agreement and a motor vehicle pact, which will make travel among SAARC nations much easier than it is today.
The Summit also agreed to set up a South Asian Postal Union whose Secretariat will be established in India.
On security issues, the 8-nation grouping agreed on rapid response to natural disasters and to combat maritime piracy.