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SAARC adopt 36-point declaration

28 November, 2014

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KATHMANDU: The leaders of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations on Thursday resolved to develop South Asia into a peaceful, stable and prosperous region by enhancing regional connectivity and increased cooperation in trade, energy, security and infrastructure.

The heads of states from eight SAARC member countries adopted the 36-point declaration in the concluding session of the two-day 18th summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation held here under the chair of Prime Minister of Nepal Sushil Koirala. The summit was attended by Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, Prime Minister of Nepal Sushil Koirala, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In the declaration, the leaders expressed their strong determination to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia by intensifying cooperation in trade, investment, finance, energy, security, infrastructure, connectivity and culture. They also called for implementing projects, programmes and activities in a prioritised, result-oriented and time-bound manner. The SAARC leaders reiterated their strong commitment to free South Asia from poverty and directed the ministerial and secretary-level mechanisms on poverty alleviation to review the progress and revisit the SAARC Plan of Action.

They unequivocally condemned terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations and underlined the need for effective cooperation among the member states to combat them. They also agreed to take effective measures to combat illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances, arms smuggling, money laundering, counterfeit currency and other transnational crimes, besides agreeing to establish a cyber crime monitoring desk. The leaders renewed their commitment to achieve South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planned manner through a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union.

They acknowledged that SAARC member states, particularly the least developed and landlocked member states, face structural constraints and challenges that result in their weak productive capacity affecting their competitiveness in external trade due to, among others, high trade and transit cost. They committed to enhance support to the least developed and landlocked member states in their development efforts, with a view to ensuring equitable benefits of free trade arrangements.

In this context, they agreed to effectively implement the existing preferential facilities under SAFTA and SATIS. The SAARC leaders directed SAFTA Ministerial Council and SAFTA Committee of Experts to accelerate free trade in goods and services in the region putting into operation simplified and transparent rules of origin. They called for implementation of trade facilitation measures, harmonization of standards relating to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures; harmonized, streamlined and simplified customs procedures; elimination of non- tariff and para-tariff barriers; and smooth and efficient transit and transport facilities.

The SAARC heads of states also called for early operationalisation of SATIS by finalising the schedule of commitments. They called for timely and comprehensive reforms of the global economic and financial architecture to make it inclusive and responsive to the needs of least developed, land-locked, and small island developing states (SIDS). They reaffirmed that SIDS would require special attention in view of their unique circumstances and particular vulnerabilities in realization of sustainable development.

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