SAARC foreign ministers push for South Asian Economic Union : Khaleej Times

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ISLAMABAD: (APP) SAARC finance ministers has called for strengthening the regional trade through expeditious implementation of the recent South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

According to Khaleej Times, eight finance ministers from South Asia who recently met in Islamabad pushed for the fast-track formation of the South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) to ensure larger investment inflows, higher trade volumes and energy generation.

According to the report, the decision was taken at a conference of finance ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The finance ministers urged leaders in the SAARC region to "accelerate the process of formation of the SAEU in a phased and planned manner, as decided in the Declaration of the 18th SAARC Summit."

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and his counterparts agreed that the decision to form the SAEU should move speedily at the 19th SAARC summit which is scheduled to be hosted by PM Sharif on November 9 and 10 this year at Islamabad.

The finance ministers decided for further "strengthening of regional trade through expeditious implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in order to achieve deeper integration.

The aim is to bring down tariffs, eliminate non-tariff and preferential trade barriers and reduce sensitive lists for enhanced intra-regional trade under SAFTA.

Another key decision was to "operationalise the SAARC agreement on trade in services by finalising the schedules of specific commitments."

According to the report, finance ministers "underlined the need for improved connectivity in the region, including through land, sea and air routes, and early signing of motor vehicle and railway agreements."

The top leadership of the region, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and others heads of state and government endorsed the demand for formation of the SAEU.