SAARC chamber calls for working together with strong business agenda

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SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik Wednesday said South Asian countries need to work together with a “strong business agenda” in services trade as the SAARC region has a huge potential.

Returning from 3-day 6th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave, which was held at Kathmandu, Iftikhar Malik said “SAARC countries need to work together with a very strong business agenda to take advantage of geographical proximity, cultural similarities and economic complementaries that we all inherited in this region, says a press release.

He said the conclave was a big success as all the business leaders and ministers from Bhutan, Nepal and Afghanistan hailing from the SAARC member states unanimously agreed to this point that economy has to be the most important agenda for the SAARC nations despite political challenges and compulsions coupled with political vibrations.

Comparing South Asia with other regions across the globe, Iftikhar Malik said with more than one-fifth of the world’s population, the SAARC region is home to two-fifths of the world’s poor. However, it accounts for only 3 per cent of global output and 2 per cent of world exports.

Intra-regional trade has stagnated at around 5 per cent of its total trade, compared to over 50 per cent in East Asia and around 20 per cent in Latin America. Even Sub-Saharan Africa, with poor transport and telecommunication infrastructure, scores over South Asia, with over 10 per cent of its trade being intra-regional, he observed.

He said another issue which is creating hindrance is non-tariff barriers and again it is the duty of India to step forward to resolve this issue by extending cooperation with other member states to boost trade in the region.

He said another hurdle is lack of awareness about non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and stakeholders like business associations should organise seminars to make traders aware of the procedures followed by each countries, which would help in increasing trade.

He said SAARC member states should focus on tourism too allowing intra-regional trade in services would enable South-Asian economies to become more globally competitive. Similarly, energy and electricity cooperation are non-traditional areas of trade relationship development.

SAARC member states unanimously widely appreciated the remarkable contribution of “Pakistan” for raising a state of the art 9 story SAARC Chamber headquarters building in Islamabad which speaks of the dedication, which is now scheduled to be completed by September. APP/AFP

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