What Does Gravity Model Reveal About SAFTA?
During last decade, the stalemate in multilateral trade negotiations under the framework of World Trade Organization (WTO) regime has provided impetus to the signing of regional trade agreements world over .South Asia is not an exception to this trend and has been involved in setting up its own bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs). Most commonly cited cooperation agreements are Agreement on Trade and Commerce between India and Bhutan(1972), India-Nepal Bilateral Trade and Transit Treaties(1991), India–Sri Lanka Bilateral Free Trade Area(1998) Bangkok Agreement (1975), Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMST-EC-2004) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association of Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC-1997). One of the most significant steps towards regional economic cooperation in the history of South Asian countries, was taken with signing of The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) formed in 1985 with the objective of exploiting “accelerated economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region” for the welfare of the peoples of South Asia. And then seven South Asian countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—initiated a framework for region-wide integration under the South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) in 1995. In order to further cement the regional economic relations and overcome some impediments of SAPTA, the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) was signed in early 2004, which came into force on 1st July 2006. The SAFTA is a parallel initiative to the multilateral trade liberalization commitments of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries. SAFTA aims to reduce tariffs for intraregional trade among the seven SAARC member countries. It has been agreed that for the South Asian countries, Pakistan and India will eliminate all tariffs by 2012, Sri Lanka by 2013 and Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal by 2015. The current paper is an attempt in assessing the potential trade in the region with latest dataset with Gravity model approach.
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