Areas of Cooperation

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SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA)

In December 1991, the Sixth Summit held in Colombo approved the establishment of an Inter-Governmental Group (IGG) to formulate an agreement to establish a SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) by 1997. Given the consensus within SAARC, the Agreement on SAPTA was signed on 11 April 1993 and entered into force on 7 December 1995 well in advance of the date stipulated by the Colombo Summit. The Agreement reflected the desire of the Member States to promote and sustain mutual trade and economic cooperation within the SAARC region through the exchange of concessions.

The basic principles underlying SAPTA are:

  1. overall reciprocity and mutuality of advantages so as to benefit equitably all Contracting States, taking into account their respective level of economic and industrial development, the pattern of their external trade, and trade and tariff policies and systems;
  2. negotiation of tariff reform step by step, improved and extended in successive stages through periodic reviews;
  3. recognition of the special needs of the Least Developed Contracting States and agreement on concrete preferential measures in their favour; and
  4. inclusion of all products, manufactures and commodities in their raw, semi-processed and processed forms.

Four rounds of trade negotiations have been concluded under SAPTA covering over 5000 commodities. Each Round contributed to an incremental trend in the product coverage and the deepening of tariff concessions over previous Rounds.