To reduce customs duties of all traded goods to zero by the year 2016, a South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was signed by the foreign ministers in 2004.
20 percent duty will be reduced in a series of annual cuts in the final five year phase ending in 2012. Underdeveloped member countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Maldives will have an additional three years to bring down tariffs to zero.
In relation to this, the Minister for Economic Affairs (MoEA), Khandu Wangchuk attended the 5th meeting of the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) Ministerial Council in Male, Maldives. He led the Bhutanese delegation representing Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Department of Revenue and Customs.
The meeting was preceded by the 6th meeting of SAFTA Committee of Experts and 6th meeting of SAFTA sub-group on Non-tariff measures on the sidelines of the SAFTA Committee of Experts. SAFTA committee of Experts has to undertake any task assigned to it by the SAFTA ministerial council. It is also mandated to monitor, review and facilitate implementation of the various provisions of the agreement.
SAFTA Ministerial Council is the highest decision making body of SAFTA and is responsible for the administration and implementation of the agreement. The meeting reviewed the progress of the implementation of the SAFTA.