ISLAMABAD, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday urged regional countries to work jointly in changing economic landscape of the region and getting its people out of clutches of poverty, illiteracy and other social ills.
He made the remarks when inaugurating a day-long meeting of finance ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Islamabad. Ministers and senior officials from SAARC groups including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were participating in the conference.
Officials said the delegates discussed proposal to move from the South Asian Free Trade Area to the South Asian Economic Union, focus on customs-related trade facilitation measures, finalizing the draft on SAARC Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investment, implementation of the SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS), Avoidance of Double Taxation and Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters and Transactions in Local Currencies.
"Three decades back South Asian leadership had made commitment to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development of our region," the Pakistani prime minister said in his opening remarks that was aired live on the state TV.
"For economic and social progress of the masses, increasing connectivity, ease of communication, freer trade and finding solution to hunger, poverty and food insecurity has helped the world enhance regional and sub-regional cooperation," Sharif said.
He expressed the confidence that deliberations of finance ministers would complement the agenda of the 19th SAARC summit, which Pakistan looks forward to hosting on Nov. 9-10.
Addressing the conference, SAARC Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa said the South Asian region has the potential to become the global economic force, adding that the leaders of SAARC countries have set an ambitious target of establishing the South Asian Economic Union, which requires deeper interaction among the member countries.
In his welcome address, Pakistani Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said joint strategies are the way forward to exploit this potential for the socio-economic uplift of our peoples.
He expressed the confidence that the vision of South Asian Economic Union will promote economic cooperation, investment and connectivity among the regional countries.
The delegates will also prioritize areas including reduction and removal of non-tariff barriers and para-tariff barriers, energy cooperation, trade facilitation measures, investment cooperation, reduction on products in the sensitive lists, implementation of the SATIS and improvement in connectivity among members.