SAARC officials meet to set agenda for bringing down tariffs
KATHMANDU, July 30 : The main South Asian regional group on Tuesday took new steps toward eliminating tariffs to boost trade in the region, reports AFP. Senior officials from South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries began a three-day meeting here to set an agenda for bringing down tariffs. The inter-governmental group on trade liberalisation will make recommendations to the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka on how to free up trade. The meeting was inaugurated by SAARC Secretary General Naeem U Hasan who stressed the importance of regional cooperation for developing regional trade and commerce through concessional tariffs. The member nations set up the South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) to boost exchanges, officials said that having reached agreement on 2,000 products for lower tariffs, the latest negotiations were part of the third round of talks under the agreement. The talks aim to enlarge the list of products covered and further cut tariffs on products already covered under the first two rounds, one officials said. The talks should be finished before a meeting of SAARC commerce ministers in Pakistan in December. The SAARC members agreed at a summit this year to move from SAPTA to the creation of a South Asian free trade area preferably by 2000-2005.