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An Analysis of SAFTA in the Context of Bangladesh

One of the main economic reasons behind regional trade blocks is to allow their regional members to benefit from economic cooperation and comparative advantages. In 1980, Bangladesh had suggested a regional cooperative body of South Asian leaders, which then led to the establishment of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 1985, the adoption of the SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) in 1993, and the agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) in 2004. This paper focuses on a review of the progress made with SAFTA, what Bangladesh’s prospects are in SAFTA, and how SAFTA can be made more active. It provides the historical background about the various initiatives within South Asia, reviews the actual trade data, and reviews the main trade restrictions within SAFTA. It also provides a set of recommendations based on this analysis.