New Delhi: All trade officials of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) countries, except Pakistan, on Wednesday participated in the video conference and deliberated on creating a larger framework of trade facilitation to offset adverse impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the region, the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said. Also Read - SAARC Covid-19 Fund: Why Pakistan Has Not Yet Made Its Contribution

To deal with the COVID-19 situation, SAARC countries stressed that new ways and means be jointly identified to sustain and expand the intra-regional trade until the normal trade channels are fully restored. Also Read - Bangladesh Pledges USD 1.5 mn to SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund

During the meeting, the impact of health issues such as COVID-19 on regional trade and measures to mitigate it was seen as new focus area for discussion in larger framework of trade facilitation in SAARC region. The MEA said that the need to enhance quantum of intra SAARC trade was also highlighted. Also Read - Coronavirus: 'No Issue if PM Wants to Call Meet of SAARC, But Government Still Not Doing Enough,' Says P Chidambaram

The meeting was held as a follow up action of announcement by PM Modi at video conference of SAARC leaders on 15 March.

The SAARC countries also discussed the impact of travel restrictions and the larger COVID-19 situation on intra-regional trade.

Commonly known as SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is a group comprising Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The officials discussed specific issues like facilitation of trade through pragmatic solutions in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Some specific issues addressed at the video conference included facilitation of trade through pragmatic solutions such as provisional clearance of imports at preferential duty with suitable conditions, provisional acceptance of digitally signed certificates of origin,” the MEA said.