Kathmandu, April 18:

Ministers from SAARC countries are meeting on April 20 in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, in a bid to chalk out strategies for effective implementation of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).

The treaty has come into force from January 2006. This is the first time that a ministerial meet is being held in Dhaka since the implementation of SAFTA agreement, according to a top official at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies. Meanwhile, a meeting of the committee of experts (CoE) has also been scheduled for April 18 and 19 to discuss certain issues at the joint secretary level with representatives from all SAARC member countries.

SAFTA came into force after SAARC member countries namely Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Maldives agreed on the framework.

Buddhiman Tamang, minister for industry, commerce and supplies is leaving for Dhaka tomorrow, according to a government official. Naindra Prasad Upadhyaya, joint secretary at the same ministry has already left for Dhaka yesterday to participate at the CoE meeting that starts there from today.

Before leaving for Dhaka, Naindra Prasad Upadhyay told The Himalayan Times that the ministerial meeting will discuss as to how all SAARC countries can move effectively to implement the SAFTA framework to boost South Asian economy as a whole. The meeting would also review the sensitive list of products, discuss about the trade in services which was not discussed during the earlier CoE meetings, said Upadhyay.

He expressed the view that SAFTA could emerge as an effective tool for the whole region to expedite economic development through the enhancement of trade. Nepal has a total of about 1,300 products in the sensitive list which needs to be reduced to about 1,000.

As per the provisions of SAFTA, agreed by seven member countries of SAARC, LDCs are supposed to get revenue compensation for the first four years beginning January 1, 2006. Officials at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies said that the ministerial meeting would basically discuss issues related to tariff and non-tariff barriers.