South Asian Free Trade Area
The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) is an agreement reached on January 6, 2004, at the 12th SAARC summit in Islamabad, Pakistan. It created a free-trade area of 1.6 billion people in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to reduce customs duties of all traded goods to zero by the year 2016. The SAFTA agreement came into force on January 1, 2006, and is operational following the ratification of the agreement by the eight governments. SAFTA required the developing countries in South Asia (India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) to bring their duties down to 20 percent in the first phase of the two-year period ending in 2007. In the final five-year phase ending in 2012, the 20 percent duty was reduced to zero in a series of annual cuts. The least developed countries in South Asia (Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the Maldives) had an additional three years to reduce tariffs to zero. India and Pakistan ratified the treaty in 2009, whereas Afghanistan as the 8th member state of the SAARC ratified the SAFTA protocol on 4 May 2011.
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