The 17th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conclude today with a series of agreements on issues such as trade and investment, transport, tourism, health, education, gender equality and climate change.
More importantly, the eight-nation SAARC summit decided to consider reducing non-tariff barriers and ad valorem duties in a bid to promote freer trade in the region.
The summit also saw renewed international interest in SAARC, considering participation by countries like China and the US as observers. China sent a team of observers and also opened an embassy in Male during the summit.
Both China and the US are betting on the summit theme `Building Bridges' to breaking down trade barriers in the region and increasingly engage with countries of the region.
US Assistant Secretary Robert Blake is reported to have met with a broad cross-section of government officials from South Asia and fellow observer nations.
Maldivian President Mohammad Nasheed who announced the agreements at the concluding session of the summit, welcomed India's decision to slash the sensitive list of imports from 480 to 25 for least developed countries under SAFTA.