Saarc commerce secretaries to meet in Maldives on July 14-15

Commerce Secretaries from eight South Asian countries are meeting next week to review the current status of all committed regional cooperation and ways to enhance trade integration and cooperation under South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) initiative.

"The meeting will be held in the Maldives from July 14 to 15," China’s Xinhua news agency quoted Lal Mani Joshi, Nepal’s commerce secretary, who will represent Nepal in the 15th meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation (CEC) under the Kathmandu-based Saarc secretariat.

"It will also review the implementation of trade facilitation measures," he said.

Though regarded as crucial body, the CEC is meeting after a gap of three years. During the meeting, the commerce secretaries are scheduled to discuss a range of issues including regional agreement on investment protection, avoidance of double taxation and Saarc trade fairs, among others.

The top commerce officials of Saarc, including Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Afghanistan will also discuss the drafts of different agreements being worked out to promote investment and trade in the region.

"Fundamentally, the meeting will review progresses achieved so far and also develop new action plans for further improving the implementation of commitments made by the Saarc Summit," Joshi said.

Among others, the agenda of the meeting is shortening the ‘sensitive list’, which includes items on which the Saarc member countries have refused to trade at zero tariffs under South Asia Free Trade Agreement (Safta) pact.

The working group of Safta that met in Kathmandu last month to shorten the list had failed to make any headway after the countries remained divided over the modalities of reducing the items from the list. "The upcoming meeting of the CEC will also touch on that matter since it aims to further liberalise trade on services and goods," Joshi was quoted by the daily as saying.

News Source: 
UNB