Bhutan to host SAFTA Ministerial meeting for the first time on 24th July

Bhutan will be hosting the eight meeting of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) ministerial council in Thimphu on 24th July 2014 at the convention center.

This will be the first time that Bhutan will be hosting the SAFTA ministerial council (SMC) meeting.

Some issues like reduction of sen¬sitive lists for tariff, easing trade of services and goods, simplification of rules of origin, making the quarantine processes friendlier and the speeding up the pace of regional economic inte¬gration are expected to be some major talking points.

SAFTA is an agreement reached on

6 January 2004 at the 12th SAARC summit in Islamabad, Pakistan. It created a free trade area of 1.8 billion people in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India,Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The seven foreign ministers of the region signed a framework agreement on SAFTA to reduce customs duties of all traded goods to zero by the year 2016.

The SAFTA agreement came into force on 1 January 2006 and is op-erational following the ratification of the agreement by the seven governments.

The main meeting will be preceded by a meeting of experts on 22nd and 23rd July where trade negotia¬tors and bureaucrats are expected to trash out the finer details of the meet

and the above issues.

The SMC meeting will discuss and consider the report of the ninth meeting of the SAFTA committee of experts and matters related to ad-ministration and implementation of the SAFTA agreement and trade in services under SAFTA.

Minister for Economic Affairs Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk as the current chair of the SMC will chair the meeting. Commerce and Trade Ministers of the SAARC member countries and the secretary general of SAARC will attend the meeting.

The SMC meeting will discuss and consider the report of the ninth meeting of the SAFTA committee of experts and matters related to the administration and implementation

of the SAFTA agreement and trade in services under SAFTA.

According to a release from the Department of Trade SAFTA con-stitutes one of the most significant achievements of SAARC. SAFTA not only fosters regional economic cooperation but also lays a strong foundation for the building of the South Asian Economic Union.

The release says that SAFTA is a flagship project of the SAARC and the success of SAARC in many ways hinges of the success of SAFTA. To advance the process of regional economic integration, the scope of SAFTA has been expanded to include trade in services, promotion of investments and harmonization of standards and customs cooperation.

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