The growth of regional trade blocs has been one of the major developments in
international relations in recent years. Virtually all countries are members of a bloc, and
many belong to more than one. Regional agreements vary widely, but all have the
objective of reducing barriers to trade between member countries. At their simplest, these
agreements merely remove tariffs on intra-bloc trade in goods, but many go beyond that
to cover non-tariff barriers and to extend liberalization to investment and other policies.
At their deepest, they have the goal of economic union and involve the construction of
shared executive, judicial, and legislative institutions.
The success of states in today’s world is not so much measured in terms of capacity
for defending borders or creating uniquely national institutions, but in terms of ability to
adapt to regional and global trends, promote exports, attract investments, and skilled
labour, provide a beneficial environment for transnational companies, build attractive
institutions of research and higher learning, manage political influence on the regional
and global scene, and also brand the nation in the international market-place.
There are many regional organizations and economic unions like Europe Union, not
only in western this has grown in different parts of the world. This includes South Asia
and the regional organization known as SAARC, which has announced the goal of
attaining an economic union and expressed the desire for a common currency. And in this
report you can find information on this regional group.
2. Historical development of the region
The idea of a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation was arise in 1980.
The foreign Ministers of the future SAARC countries met at Colombo in 1981 to discuss
the issue of regional cooperation and agreed upon the principles of unanimity in decision
making and keeping bilateral disputes out of the framework of regional cooperation. The
Integrated Programme of Action (IPA) was endorsed in a Foreign Secretary meeting held
at Dhaka in August 1982.
The IPA identified eleven areas of cooperation – agriculture, communications,
education-culture-sports, environment and meteorology, health and population activities,
prevention of drug trafficking and drug abuse, rural development, science and technology,
tourism, transport, and women in development. To translate the objectives enshrined in
the Charter the Foreign Ministers of member countries met in Colombo for the first
Preparatory meeting of SAARC. They agreed on the agenda for SAARC, which included
issues like rural development, agriculture, meteorology, telecommunication, health and
population, science and technology, transport, and posts & telegraph services.
The third meeting held in Thimpu agreed on sports, arts and culture, and planning and
development, which were incorporated into the list of areas for cooperation. The Thimpu
meeting also led to agreement on the creation of an institutional framework for SAARC
and decided the venue and the dates of the first SAARC summit. After these three
preparatory and first meeting of the SAARC summit was held in Dhaka in 1985.
South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is an economic and
political organization of South Asian Nation. It was established on 8 December 1985 and
has the Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri
Lanka as its members.
And also Australia, China, European Union, Iran, Japan,
Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea and United states are 9 observers’ membership
countries. There are Three Potential future members China, Myanmar and Russia.
China has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full member
of SAARC. Supported by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Mynnmar has expressed interest in upgrading its status from an observer to a full
member of SAARC.
Russia has expressed interest in becoming an observer of SAARC. Supported by
Hardly anyone would claim that SAARC is going well in every respect, and it’s true
that tangible results are few and far between. But there have been successes: over the last
25 years, despite extremely difficult political circumstances, SAARC has managed to
create situations, institutions and forums where Heads of State have had to shake each
others’ hands and go into talks together. SAARC has tackled important topics for the
region such as a social charter, development agreements and even the sensitive subject of
fighting terrorism and has achieved some good results. The food and development banks
are important steps in the right direction. Exchanges in the areas of civil society and
science have become one of the pillars of South Asian integration efforts.
3. Objectives of SAARC
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprising
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is a dynamic
institutionalized regional cooperation in South Asia, basically perceived as an economic
grouping to work together for accelerating the pace of socio-economic and cultural
The objectives of the association as defined in the SAARC Charter are:
To promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of South
To contribute to develop mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one
To promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social,
cultural, technical and scientific fields;
To strengthen cooperation with other developing countries;
To strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of
common interest; and
To cooperate with international and regional organizations with similar aims and
Cooperation in the SAARC is based on respect for the principles of sovereign equality,
territorial integrity, political independence, noninterference in internal affairs of the
member states and mutual benefit.
However, it is true that most of the programmes and achievements of SAARC exist on
paper. The much talked about SAARC Food Security Reserve could not be utilized to
meet the needs of Bangladesh during its worst natural disaster in 1991. It is also true that
most SAARC activities are confined to the holding of seminars, workshops, and short
training programmes. These activities may be useful, but they do not address priority
areas and lack visibility and regional focus so essential for evolving a South Asian
identity. Most importantly, SAARC suffers from an acute resource crunch. Unless the
organization is successful in mobilizing funds and technical know-how from outside
sources, most of its projects cannot be implemented and, thus, its relevance will remain
4. Progress of the trade block
Cooperation in the core economic areas amongst Member Countries was initiated
following the completion of the Study on Trade, Manufactures and Services (TMS) in
June 1991. Among other things, the TMS Study recognized economic cooperation as an
imperative for promoting all-round development of South Asia.
Following are the main economic agenda of the SAARC.
SAARC Preferential Trading Agreement (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 common consent 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 contracted 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
The basic principles underlying SAPTA are:
a) 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;
b) Negotiation of tariff reform step by step, improved and extended in successive
stages through periodic reviews;
c) Recognition of the special needs of the Least Developed Contracting States and
agreement on concrete preferential measures in their favour; and
d) Inclusion of all products, manufactures and commodities in their raw, semiprocessed and processed forms.
b. South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA)
SAPTA was imagine primarily as the first step towards the transition to a South
Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) leading subsequently towards a Customs Union,
Common Market and Economic Union. In 1995, the Sixteenth session of the Council of
Ministers agreed on the need to strive for the realization of SAFTA and to this end an
Inter-Governmental Expert Group (IGEG) was set up in 1996 to identify the necessary
steps for progressing to a free trade area. The Tenth SAARC Summit decided to set up a
Committee of Experts (COE) to draft a comprehensive treaty framework for creating a
free trade area within the region, taking into consideration the asymmetries in
development within the region and aspect in mind the need to fix realistic and achievable
The Agreement on SAFTA, drafted by the COE, was signed on 6 January 2004
during the twelfth SAARC Summit in Islamabad. The Agreement entered into force on 1
Under the Trade Liberalization Programme scheduled for completion in ten years
by 2016, the customs duties on products from the region will be progressively reduced.
However, under an early harvest programme for the Least Developed Member States,
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are to bring down their customs duties to 0-5 % by 1
January 2009 for the products from such Member States. The Least Developed Member
States are expected to benefit from additional measures under the special and differential
treatment accorded to them under the Agreement.
South Asian Economic Union
The Eleventh Summit provided further impulsion to the regional economic
cooperation to give effect to the shared aspirations for a more prosperous South Asia. At
the Summit, the Leaders agreed to advance cooperation in the core areas of trade, finance
and investment to realize the goal of an integrated South Asian economy in a step-by-step
manner. They also agreed to the vision of a development and planned process eventually
leading to a South Asian Economic Union. At the Twelfth SAARC Summit the SAARC
FINANCE was given the responsibility to study and make recommendations on the early
and overall realization of a South Asian Economic Union (SAEU). It was also tasked with
examining the concept of a South Asian Development Bank.
5. Impact to the global trade
Trend in SAARC’s global trade as also intra-SAARC trade in recent years are
presented in this chapter. Further, trade developments in each SAARC member countries
as also developments in SAARC trade integration are also presented in the chapter.
During the period 2000 to 2006, the total exports of SAARC countries increased from
US$ 63.5 billion to US$ 161.4 billion. The growth rate of exports also increased from
3.9% in 2001 to 23.9% in 2006. Among all the member countries, India is the largest
exporter followed by Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Table 5.1 presents the trend in SAARC’s global exports. The total global imports of
SAARC countries also increased from US$ 79.5 billion in 2000 to US$ 255.3 billion in
2006, registering more than a three-fold rise during the period.
India is the largest importer in the SAARC region followed by Pakistan and
Bangladesh. Thus, data on exports and imports reveal that SAARC as a trade bloc
experienced trade deficit of US$ 93.9 billion with the world in 2006. Table 5.2 presents
the trend in SAARC’s global imports.
SAARC’S GLOBAL EXPORTS DURING 2000-2006 (US$ billions)
SOURCE: Direction of Trade Statistics Year Book 2007, IMF.
SAARC’S GLOBAL IMPORTS DURING 2000-2006 (US$ billions)
SOURCE: Direction of Trade Statistics Year Book 2007, IMF.
Figure 5.1 draws the trend in intra-SAARC trade (exports plus imports), vis-a-vis
trend in SAARC’s global trade. A comparison of the trends would help to highlight the
floatability in intra-SAARC trade especially after 2003, as compared to SAARC’s global
Challenges to the trade block
A growing emphasis on attracting foreign investment and seeking access to new
markets in SAARC states indicates that economic progress is central to the future of
South Asia. SAARC, however, is likely to play only a limited role in that future because
of India’s considerable position of power over the other SAARC states. This imbalance of
power within SAARC allows conflicts between India and its neighbors to undermine
organizational unity. Clashes between South Asian countries end up jeopardizing the
formation and effectiveness of regional trade agreements. They also lead individual
SAARC countries to advance their economic interests through bi-lateral agreements,
reduce the incentive to connect in multi-laterally.
Some factors that are discussed below are main challenges to the trade block,
Weak port and transport infrastructure: The poor port and transport infrastructure,
regulatory environment. Delays in transit due to road or port condition, and customs
procedures raise the costs for exporters.
Too small and too few with similar revealed comparative advantage: The South
Asian region comprises of only eight countries compared to more than twenty in East
Asia and Latin America, coupled with the dominance of a large country namely India,
which tends to trade less as a share of GDP.
Difficult business environment: Besides the high levels of protection in the region,
the procedural delays stemming from institutional requirements have been a major
factor inhibiting trade and business across borders.
Restrictive rules of origin and destination: Rules of origin in preferential or free
trade agreements help determine the products for tariff preferences but high tariff
barriers and tight rules of origin raises the risk of trade-diversion and the port-specific
restrictions have increased transactions costs of trading across border.
Fear of India: There is a real fear of de-industrialization in some sectors where
Indian manufactures could compete out domestic products in the smaller countries,
which are far less diversified than India. For example, in Pakistan where textiles and
clothing sector is considered to be the major driving force for economic growth, and
contributed more than 60% in total export value, a business section feels threatened
by the Indian imports.
Different Inter & Intra State Conflicts in the region
1. Kashmir border conflict between India & Pakistan
2. India- Pakistan nuclear tension
3. India- Nepal trade disputes
4. India- Sri Lanka security issues
5. India-Bangladesh boarder conflicts
6. Pakistan-Afghanistan religious and sectarian disputes
7. Pakistan-Bangladesh disputes over nationalism
8. Punjab separatist movement (India)
9. Nagaland issue (India)
10. Sectarian violence ( Pakistan)
11. Balochistan and North-Western Frontier Province communal tension
12. Sri Lanka’s civil conflict
13. Maoist struggle in Nepal
14. Bangladesh – Chakma insurgency
15. Communal and religious tension in Afganistan