Friday, August 30, 2013

SAARC finance ministers agree to strengthen regional economic integration

The sixth SAARC Finance Ministerial Meeting today concluded in Colombo promising to strengthen economic integration of SAARC towards South Asian Economic Union, also through early implementation of regional trade agreement.
They have decided to remove existing tariff and non-tariff barriers (NTB) for the early implementation of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and enhance mutual cooperation in key sectors like tourism and agriculture, apart from SAARC Development Fund (SDF) – that aims to alleviate poverty – and discussed on SAARC Investment Fund, apart from SAARC Promotion and Protection of Investment, grater flow of capital and intra regional long term investment, SAARC Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation, and SAARC Customs Cooperation,  as approved in the fifth SAARC Finance Ministers meeting held in Bangladesh capital Dhaka last year.
The South Asian finance ministers also decided to improve the existing mechanisms, through review, rationalisation and reinvigoration, and make SAARC better known and understood by International Institutions and Governments around the world.
They have also resolved that the SAARC – the home to some 1.2 billion people – must speak unitedly to the world. South Asia represents about 20 per cent of the world population, which has great potential to enhance and promote relations among the member states, and lobby for the regional benefit.
The finance ministers also committed unitedly in protecting the region from adverse effects of global financial crisis and strong US dollar that has made the regional currencies weaker, apart from fighting against energy crisis and rising petroleum prices.
Addressing his South Asian counterparts on the occasion, finance minister Shanker Prasad Koirala stressed the need to launch people-centric economic activities for the benefit of the region.
 “We can reap the benefits of regional cooperation through active participation of private sector in the exchange of trade, commerce and financial cooperation,” he said, underscoring the necessity to carry forward the concept of SAARC Energy Ring and the regional energy trade as the region is energy starved despite the huge potential for energy development. “Apart from energy, better connectivity will also enhance regional integration,” he added.
The seventh meeting of SAARC Finance Ministers and Finance Secretaries will be held in Nepal in 2014.

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