Friday, November 28, 2014

Highlights of the 18th SAARC Summit Declaration

The 18th SAARC Summit was held in Kathmandu on 26-27 November 2014. The most prominent regional feature was the agreement on the framework on energy cooperation. Motor vehicles and regional railways agreements are to be finalized within three months.

Excerpts from the declaration:
  • Commitment to achieve South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planned manner through a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union
  • Effectively implement the existing preferential facilities under SAFTA and SATIS (especially for Least Developed and Landlocked Member States)
  • Accelerate free trade in goods and services in the region putting into operation simplified and transparent rules of origin; implementation of trade facilitation measures; harmonization of standards relating to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures; harmonized, streamlined and simplified customs procedures; elimination of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers; and smooth and efficient transit and transport facilities
  • Signing of the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity)
  • Identify regional and sub-regional projects in the area of power generation, transmission and power trade, including hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and bio-fuel, and implement them with high priority with a view to meeting the increasing demand for power in the region
  • Initiate an Inter-Governmental process to appropriately contextualize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the regional level
  • Eliminate the threshold criteria from the SAARC Food Bank Agreement so as to enable the Member States to avail food grains, during both emergency and normal time food difficulty
  • Collaborate and cooperate on safe, orderly and responsible management of labour migration from South Asia to ensure safety, security and wellbeing of their migrant workers in the destination countries outside the region
  • India to develop and launch a satellite dedicated to SAARC Countries
  • Collaboration and engagement among public authorities and private stakeholders in the Member States to lower telephone tariff rates for facilitating greater contacts among the people of the region and called for rationalization of the tariff structures
  • Effectively implement SAARC Action Plan on Tourism (2006) particularly through initiating appropriate public-private collaboration
  • Hold henceforth the meetings of the SAARC Summit every two years or earlier
Meanwhile, Nepal and India signed 12 agreements/MoUs on the sidelines of the summit. These include:
  • MoUs on tourism, traditional medicines and youth exchange
  • Motor Vehicle Agreement
  • MoU on PDA for Arun III
  • Twin City Agreements between Ayodhya-Janakpur, Kathmandu-Varanasi, and Lumbini-Bodh Gaya