Thimpu, (Agecnies): India urged all member-states to ratify the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Agreement on Trade in Services, terming it a "big step forward" for increasing trade within the region.

"The signing of the Saarc Agreement on Trade in Services (SATIS) in Thimphu last year was a big step forward in broadening the scope of trade in Saarc from goods to also include services," External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said here in his opening remarks at Saarc Council of Ministers meeting.

He said four countries have already ratified the agreement, and he would urge the "member-states that have not yet done so to take steps to do so soon".

Krishna noted that while trade under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (Safta) had crossed $1.2 billion, it was still much below potential.

"India is taking steps to reduce its sensitive lists, especially for LDCs (least developed countries), and I hope this will encourage others to respond too," he said.

He added that a demonstration container train is being planned between Bangladesh, India and Nepal, which will "hopefully show the potential for reducing freight costs in the region and give an impetus to trade."

The minister said two draft agreements on motor vehicles and railways for enhancing regional connectivity are still pending. "I hope progress can be made with regard to these two agreements," he said.