Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, speaking at the thirty- seventh Session of the SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in Pokhara, Nepal today, said that last year alone, Sri Lanka was the host to eleven SAARC meetings and workshops relating to several important areas of cooperation.
Further, he said the Government provided necessary resources to national focal agencies to send more than 100 experts and professionals to various SAARC meetings outside Sri Lanka.
The Foreign Minister said that although trade under SAFTA has been increasing, the total volume of intra-regional trade in SAARC is far below than its actual potential. Regional cooperation and integration in South Asia is vital for countries to improve competitiveness and productivity. Open trade, stable and friendly investment policies, could induce more FDI inflow to the region.
“Sri Lanka is committed to working with SAARC on promoting regional and multilateral economic cooperation. While welcoming joint proposals by several Member States to fast-track the reduction of the sensitive lists under SAFTA, Sri Lanka will also continue consultations with the stakeholders and work towards the further contraction of the existing Sensitive List in a phased manner,” he said.
He also said that poverty alleviation and improving the living conditions of our people have always been a priority of SAARC but the region is still home for around 44% of the world’s poor.
The Minister says there is an urgent need for SAARC to take early action to contextualise the newly adopted Sustainable Development agenda and develop an appropriate regional mechanism for its implementation.
“Today, security challenges, both traditional and non-traditional, have become extremely complex and interwoven. The diverse, complex and advanced tactics used by illegal non state actors engaged in terrorism, piracy, trafficking, and smuggling need to be addressed with urgency through cooperation and coordination,” he added.
The Minister concluded by saying that Sri Lanka for its part will spare no effort to translate the vision of the SAARC Charter into reality. (Colombo Gazette)