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Bhutan to host 8th SAFTA ministerial council

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SAARC: The eighth meeting of the South Asia free trade area (SAFTA) ministerial council will be held in the capital on July 24.  This will be the first time Bhutan will host the SAFTA ministerial council (SMC).

The SMC will discuss and consider the report of the ninth meeting of the SAFTA committee of experts.

Economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk, who will chair the SMC, said the meeting would also consider discussing matters related to the administration and implementation of the SAFTA agreement and trade services under SAFTA.

The SMC is the highest decision-making body of SAFTA responsible for the administration and implementation of the agreement

Lyonpo also said the SMC will take place after the completion of the SAFTA committee of experts meeting on July 22-23.

The commerce and trade ministers of the SAARC member states and the secretary general of the SAARC will attend the meeting.

Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said SAFTA not only fostered the regional economic cooperation but also laid strong foundations in the building of South Asian Economic Union.

SAFTA, he said was the flagship of the SAARC, adding that success of member states depended on 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 harmonisation of standards and customs cooperation,” lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said.

Except for Bhutan and Afghanistan, all the SAARC member states had hosted and chaired the SMC meeting.

SAFTA was launched in January 2006 and it constitutes one of the most significant achievements of SAARC. The seventh SMC meeting was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on August 23, 2013.

Unlike the earlier meetings, the Thimphu SMC will, for the first time have all the trade and commerce ministers of the SAARC member states attending.

By Rajesh Rai

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