"In 1995 the seven South Asian countries--Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka--initiated a multilateral framework for regionwide integration under the South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA). In a recent initiative, members agreed that SAPTA would begin the transformation into a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) by the beginning of 2006, with full implementation completed between 2009 and 2013. The impetus toward regional preferential trading arrangements and greater regional economic integration raises many important issues, both for the South Asian region as a whole and for the individual countries. Pitigala uses the "natural trading partners" hypothesis as the empirical criterion to assess the potential success of a South Asian trading bloc." -- Cover verso.