In order to expand cooperation in trade and further deepen the integration of the regional economies, the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services was signed at the Sixteenth SAARC Summit held in Thimphu in April 2010. The Agreement entered into force on 29 November 2012 after ratification by all SAARC Member States with the issuance of a Notification by the Secretary General of SAARC. Since the signing of the Agreement, the Expert Group on the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services has been engaged in negotiating Schedules of Specific Commitments. The SAARC Commerce Ministers have been monitoring the progress in this regard and giving requisite directives aimed at time-bound actions for finalization of Schedules of Specific Commitments. At the next i.e. Eleventh Meeting of the Expert Group, the Schedules of Specific Commitments are expected to be finalized.
The Thirteenth Meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation (Dhaka, 24-25 November 2007) directed that the Heads of SAARC Statistical Organisations (SAARCSTAT) may focus on capacity building for collection of statistics on trade in Services in the Region. Accordingly, SAARCSTAT discussed the matter and agreed that issues involved in comprehensive collection of data on Trade in Services in the Region need to be pursued with urgency. It being a new area, the existing capacity of the SAARC Member States for data collection on trade in services was constrained and mainly consisted of data provided by the respective Central Banks. As of now, National Statistical Offices (NSOs) were not directly involved in the process of data collection of trade in services. SAARCSTAT recommended strengthening of institutional mechanisms for regular collection and compilation of data on international trade in services; and constitution of country teams including representatives of Ministries of Commerce/Ministry of Foreign Trade, Central Banks and National Statistical Offices. As recommended by SAARCSTAT, a Study on Development of an Institutional Framework for Data Collection on Trade in Services has been conducted by SAARC with the financial and technical assistance of Asian Development Bank (ADB). Dr Ram Upendra Das, RIS, New Delhi as the lead consultant conducted the study on the subject which is now being examined by the Member States.