Leaders vow to achieve economic union

Leaders vow to achieve economic union

Saarc leaders on Thursday renewed their commitment to achieve 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 18th Saarc summit concluded in the capital of Nepal on Thursday with the adoption of the Kathmandu Declaration, which acknowledged that the members, particularly the least developed and landlocked member states, faced structural constraints and challenges that result in their weak productive capacity affecting their competitiveness in external trade due to, among others, high trade and transit cost.

Saarc leaders committed to enhance support to the least developed and landlocked member states, with a view to ensure equitable benefits of free trade arrangements. They also agreed to effectively implement the existing preferential facilities under South Asia Free Trade Agreement and Saarc Agreement for Trade in Services.

The summit also saw leaders of the eight nations to make yet another attempt to make the 29-year-old bloc more effective, as they directed the SAFTA Ministerial Council and SAFTA Committee of Experts to accelerate free trade in goods and services in the region putting into operation simplified and transparent rules of origin; implementation of trade facilitation measures; harmonization of standards relating to technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures; harmonized, streamlined and simplified customs procedures; elimination of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers; and smooth and efficient transit and transport facilities. The Kathmandu Declaration called for timely and comprehensive reforms of the global economic and financial architecture.

 The leaders agreed to strengthen the social window of the SAARC Development Fund and operationalize its economic window and infrastructure window at the earliest for effective implementation of regional and sub-regional projects. They stressed on expeditious development of projects under SDF addressing the livelihood issues of the peoples of the region.

They directed to eliminate the threshold criteria from the Saarc Food Bank Agreement so as to enable the member states to avail foodgrain, during both emergency and normal time 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. The leaders also directed the relevant Saarc bodies to finalise the setting up of Regional Vaccine Bank and Regional Livestock Gene Bank.
DH News Service

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