Four SAARC agreements to be signed at summit

Four agreements are to be signed among SAARC member nations at the summit on November 10 and 11, chair of the standing committee, Mohamed Naseer, revealed yesterday.

With the exception of an agreement on disaster management, Naseer did not reveal details as the agreements are subject to endorsement or approval by the Council of Foreign Ministers, which has convened today. The council will also consider a draft SAARC declaration prepared by the committee.

Speaking to press after the 39th session of the standing committee, Naseer, permanent secretary at the foreign ministry, said discussions focused on transport and connectivity “to promote greater movement of people, investment and trade in the region.”

The committee also “underscored the need to intensify efforts in the area of poverty alleviation, particularly with regard to the completion of the regional poverty profile from 2009-2010.”

A mid-term review is to be undertaken to evaluate the SAARC goals before the next standing committee meeting in July, he added.

On SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement), Naseer said the committee agreed to make the tariffs and rules of preference “more attractive than those under the bilateral trade agreement.”

Meanwhile an inter-governmental mechanism is to be set up “to guide the agenda of cooperation in disaster and risk management.”

The committee also decided to expand and institutionalise the annual South Asia Forum “as a platform for the widest possible engagement of stakeholders as a means of promoting ideas so that the SAARC process could be taken to a greater level.”

On a draft regional agreement on promotion and protection of investments, Naseer said the committee had “a very productive discussion” where it was agreed to finalise the agreement before the next meeting in July.

The committee agreed to hold the 12th SAARC Trade Fair and the SAARC Travel and Tourism Fair in the Maldives in 2012, Naseer continued, “so we will be hosting these two fairs hopefully in Addu City.”

On the proposed ‘Indian Ocean Cargo and Passenger Ferry Services,’ Naseer said the committee agreed to undertake feasibility studies before the end of the year “so that the project can start as early as possible next year.”

Meanwhile the committee discussed expediting the application process for the South Asian University to enroll “over 200 students from SAARC countries” next year.