The Fifteenth Meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation comprising Commerce Secretaries of SAARC Member States was held in the Maldives on 15-16 July 2012 at the invitation of the Government of Maldives. In his opening remarks, H.E. Mr. Ahmed Saleem, Secretary General of SAARC emphasised the importance of the mandate of this high level body which has the mandate to monitor the progress in the trade and economic cooperation and to suggest new ideas for further deepening this cooperation. H.E. Mr. Ahmed Mohamed, Hon’ble Minister of Economic Development, Government of Maldives welcomed the delegates to the Maldives and reiterated the importance of further accelerating the pace of regional economic cooperation and reaffirmed the commitment of the Maldives to the speedier enhancement of economic cooperation under SAARC for regional economic integration.
The Meeting was held under the chairmanship of Mr. Yusuf Riza, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Economic Development, Government of Maldives. It reviewed the progress in the implementation of its earlier recommendations with regard to South Asian Free Trade Area, reduction in the Sensitive Lists, intra-SAARC trade flows under SAFTA, SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services, harmonisation of standards, establishment of South Asian Regional Standards Organisation, establishment of SAARC Arbitration Council, harmonisation of customs procedures and documentation, cooperation in the fields of statistics, avoidance of double taxation, SAARC Trade Fairs etc. It emphasised the early finalisation of the text of the Draft SAARC Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment. It also made recommendations for developing a road map for a long term vision of regional economic integration in SAARC and for its movement towards South Asian Economic Union. A representative of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry made a presentation giving the perspective of private sector for promotion of intra-SAARC trade and economic cooperation.
The Meeting recognised delays in customs clearance procedures and decided that henceforth electronic copies of specimen signatures and seals of officials authorised to sign SAFTA Certificates of Origin may also be accepted in addition to sending the original copies of such documents in order to save time and to ensure that the consignments are not held up at the customs border points. It also agreed with the proposal of the delegation of Maldives that the scope of the SAARC Limited Multilateral Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters may be expanded for the benefit of all concerned in the region.
Nepal offered to host the Sixteenth Meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation would be held in Nepal in 2013, the exact dates for which would be decided once the dates for the Eighteenth SAARC Summit are announced.