Saarc Trade Agreement

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional intergovernmental organization comprising eight countries in South Asia. These countries include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The SAARC Trade Agreement (STA) was signed in 1995 with the objective of promoting and enhancing regional trade among member countries. The agreement aims to establish a free trade area among SAARC countries, which would increase trade and investment flows, and reduce trade barriers.

The STA has six main annexes that cover trade in goods, customs cooperation, standards, technical barriers to trade, dispute settlement, and trade in services. Under the agreement, member countries are committed to reducing and ultimately eliminating tariffs on goods traded between themselves.

According to the latest SAARC trade statistics, intra-regional trade stood at USD 23.1 billion in 2018, accounting for only 5% of the region`s total trade. This highlights the need for member countries to do more to promote regional economic integration and increase intra-regional trade.

While the STA has made some progress in promoting regional trade, there are still several challenges that need to be addressed. These include non-tariff barriers, such as technical standards and regulations that differ between member countries, and poor infrastructure that hampers the movement of goods and people across borders.

In recent years, there has been renewed interest in reviving the SAARC process and promoting greater economic integration among member countries. In 2019, the SAARC Finance Ministers` meeting was held after a gap of three years, and the member countries agreed to work towards enhancing trade and investment flows within the region.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of regional cooperation in addressing common challenges. In this context, SAARC member countries have been exploring ways to work together to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic and promote economic recovery.

In conclusion, the SAARC Trade Agreement has laid the foundation for greater economic integration among member countries. While progress has been made in promoting regional trade, there is still a long way to go in removing trade barriers and enhancing connectivity within the region. As SAARC member countries work towards promoting greater economic integration, they have an opportunity to unlock the region`s vast economic potential and create new opportunities for their citizens.

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