MASERU, Aug 19 (Xinhua): The Southern African Development Community (SADC) closed its two-day summit here Friday, with leaders of the 14 member countries reaffirming their commitment to the regional integration agenda.
According to a communique issued at a post-summit press conference, the summit emphasised the need to scale up the implementation of the SADC integration agenda.
Pakalitha Mosisili, Lesotho prime minister and new chairman of SADC, said that to meet the regional integration goals requires enhanced and sustained political will and commitment.
To this end, the summit established a task force comprising ministers responsible for finance, investment, economic development, trade and industry, to work with the secretariat with a view to defining the roadmap for eradicating poverty and propose measures for fast tracking implementation.
The summit approved and signed the SADC protocol on finance and investment, which is critical for harmonising macroeconomic policies in boosting integration.
The summit noted that while SADC recorded an overall 5 per cent growth in real GDP in 2005, the region still needs to work hard as it remains below the 7 per cent target set by the UN for developing nations to attain in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015.
The leaders observed that programs for combating the spread of HIV and mitigating the impact of AIDS remain very high on the region's agenda, and resolved that these interventions be up-scaled within the context of the Maseru Declaration on Combating HIV/AIDS of 2004.
With respect to the membership of Seychelles, the summit welcomed the application of Seychelles to rejoin SADC and resolved to engage in further consultations on the matter.
Nath said due to the delay in concluding negotiations, there will not be an Early Harvest Programme to reduce tariffs on selected items and it was expected that the FTA would be implemented in one go.
He also made it clear that ASEAN's demand of reducing the negative list of items, on which there will be no tariff cuts, to 100 was not acceptable.
Under the new offer, India has trimmed down its list of items that it wants excluded from the pact to 560 goods covering only 5.4 per cent of ASEAN's exports, Pillai said.
India had earlier brought down the negative list to 850 last month from 1,440 items last year.
The latest offer includes reducing tariffs on refined palm oil from 90 per cent to 60 per cent, crude palm oil from 80 per cent to 50 per cent, black tea from 100 per cent to 50 per cent and pepper from 70 per cent to 50 per cent.