KATHMANDU – Commerce Secretaries from eight South Asian countries are meeting next week to review current status of all committed regional cooperations and ways to enhance trade integration and cooperation under South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) initiative.

“The meeting will be held in the Maldives from July 14 to 15,” said Lal Mani Joshi, commerce secretary, who will represent Nepal in the 15th meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation (CEC) under the Kathmandu-based SARRC secretariat. “It will also review the implementation of trade facilitation measures,” he was quoted by the Republica daily as saying.

Though regarded as crucial body, the CEC is meeting after a gap of three years. During the meeting, the commerce secretaries are scheduled to discuss a range of issues including regional agreement on investment protection, avoidance of double taxation and SAARC trade fairs, among others.

The top commerce officials of SAARC, including Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan will also discuss the drafts of different agreements being worked out to promote investment and trade in the region.

Among others, the agendas of the meeting is shortening the “ sensitive list”, which include items on which the SAARC member countries have refused to trade at zero tariffs under South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) pact.

The working group of SAFTA that met in Kathmandu last month to shorten the list had failed to make any headway after the countries remained divided over the modalities of reducing the items from the list. “The upcoming meeting of the CEC will also touch on that matter since it aims to further liberalize trade on services and goods,” Joshi was quoted by the daily as saying.