International Trade International Trade Organisation
Established under the aegis of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the South Asian Forum aims at charting a map for SAARC's next 25 years, besides monitoring the gradual removal of non-tariff barriers (NTBs), expanding the reach of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and implementation of related trade policies. The creation of the South Asia Forum was mandated in the SAARC summit held at Thimphu. The outcome of the forum after its first will be forwarded to the SAARC's secretary-general who would then take it up in the summit.
In the Thimphu Summit, all the countries agreed to form a 'South Asia Forum' for the generation of debate, discussion and the exchange of ideas on South Asia and its future development; to put greater efforts in intra-regional connectivity to boost trade. The Forum will consist of the representatives from government, think-tanks and chambers of commerce from all the 8 members namely India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Nepal. The Forum would provide inputs, based on a comprehensive understanding, for charting out the future course of SAARC in the medium and long run and recommend, if required, the necessary improvements required in the existing mechanisms. Such a forum could function on public-private partnership lines, and allow for multiple inputs beyond governments into the consideration of the future of SAARC.
The forum will enhance the intra- regional trade and bring together a synergy from the governmental and non-governmental sectors. Earlier, there had been annual summits that were held in India, Sri Lanka and Nepal but these dialogues and processes, due to their autonomous natures, had not been fed into the official process and resulted in failure in trade talks.
In 2009, Intra-regional trade was $628.9 billion, which was just 5% of global trade. In contrast, East Asia's comparative contribution to global trade was 32% in 2006. Via the forum, the trade is expected to increase by 3-fold.
Apart from these, the forum will look into empowering SAARC to deal with problems of a bilateral or political nature that is not in its mandate.
The Thimphu summit also celebrated 25 years of SAARC. In the next SAARC summit, to be held on 11th November 2011 in Maldives, the forum will act as a vehicle to promote the vision of a South Asian community and South Asian economic union.
SAARC - The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an organization of South Asian nations, founded in December 1985 and dedicated to economic, technological, social, and cultural development emphasizing collective self-reliance. Its seven founding members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan joined the organization in 2005. Meetings of heads of state are usually scheduled annually; meetings of foreign secretaries, twice annually. It is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal.