Highlighting the importance of enhancing regional trade in South Asia, Maldives on Tuesday called for making the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) fully operational even as it said the benefits of free trade should be made more equitable and inclusive.
Calling SAFTA a "springboard" for economic development of the region, Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in his inaugural address at the 14th SAARC Summit here, "It should be made fully operational".
Gayoom, however, said the economic cooperation had so far failed to strengthen regional cooperation and the benefits of the more open global economy had not resulted in equitable benefits for the region.
"The benefits of the intra-region trade have to be made more equitable and inclusive," Gayoom said, while stressing on SAARC speeding up its progress to promote the economic benefits.
The Maldives leader said his country gave a lot of importance on the SAARC business leaders conclave.
"We must give it greater endorsement," he said and suggested that the captains of the industry should have a greater role to play in the Summit to achieve the goal of a stronger public-private partnership.