English | Dzongkha Monday, October 23, 2017

Reviving SAFTA, to boost trade among SAARC Countries


Nov 28, 2013

SAFTAThe South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries endorsed South Asia Free Trade Area agreement (SAFTA) in 2006. However, the implementation of the agreement has been slow till date. Officials from the commerce chambers of the SAARC region cited lack of co-ordination and trust as the main hindrance for the slow implementation.

The main objective of the agreement is to make trading convenient within the SAARC countries, which include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

In order to fast track the agreement the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry conducted a day-long workshop in Thimphu.

“We will be submitting [resolutions] to the respective government to table it when negotiations happen,” said Phub Tshering, Secretary General of the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

An official from the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry said although implementation of SAFTA agreement has been sluggish, there has been several initiatives taken under the Agreement.

“We have introduced the SAARC visa sticker for the leading businessman from the region as well. Once you have that sticker you can travel within the region of eight countries, and many other import duties which we have reduced,” said Zulfiqar Ali Butt, Deputy Secretary General, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

However, he added that to fully implement the agreement, SAARC member countries should trust each other. “Until and unless trust deficit will be minimized, SAFTA will not be able to implement 100 percent. We have to be trusted, the nations have to be trusted and the government has to trust each other.”

Other discussions during the workshop included on how the private sectors from SAARC countries will get access to SAARC Development Fund.

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