Commerce Minister Faruk Khan Tuesday said South Asia has some anti-people politicians and bureaucrats for whom regional consumers suffer heavily due to regional non cooperation.
The minister came up with the allegations at a regional workshop titled ‘Cost of Economic Non Cooperation to Consumers in South Asia (COENCOSA)’at BRAC Centre Inn Auditorium in the city.
The Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance (I-PAG), Bangladesh in partnership with Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), India and Asia Foundation, Bangladesh organised the day-long workshop.
“I don’t know why anti-people politicians and bureaucrats don’t understand people’s interest”. Raising questions he himself replied: “They have diplomatic problems, they have politics-for what people of South Asia are suffering.”
The minister said the meeting is a timely initiative as the topic is very important now.
He said the intra-regional trade in South Asia was 25 per cent in 1947 and that now stood at 5 per cent of total trade of these countries. “This is the good effect of our independence,” he sarcastically remarked.
Giving example of regional trade, the minister said regional trade of European Union (EU) was 35 per cent in 1992, and that now reached 55 per cent. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries’ inter-regional trade was 38 per cent in 1994, that now soared to 58 per cent.
“But what we are doing. Our trade is declining. We are increasing our negative list day after day,” he added.
He said, “in the recent South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) meeting held in Maldives on June 13 we met with the commitment of reducing 20 per cent sensitive lists at least. But except Bangladesh no country attended the meeting with the preparation while they sought more time to do that.”
He expressed the hope that ‘Border Haat’, common marketplace for both Bangladeshis and Indians to boost local business along the borderline, would be open on July 15.
He said despite having a lot of barriers in the country and in the region Bangladeshi businessmen’s achievement is tremendous.
Faruk Khan said, “Bangladesh achieved 42 per cent more export growth than that of last fiscal year and in the closing of this fiscal the total export trade would reach 22 billion dollar.”
Speaking as the special guest, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s foreign adviser Gawhar Rizvi said, “it is a great thing that we are now looking at regional trade through consumers’ perspective.”
He said the consumers are unaware of what they are consuming and what they should consume and what are the choices. Large corporations do not inform people of what components they made their products despite formulation of the right to Information Act.
The adviser said the main restrictions of free flow of trade in South Asia are infrastructural barrier, tariff and non-tariff barriers, transports etc.
The regional meeting was organised to discuss the preliminary findings of literature review and data analyses as well as the methodology and questionnaire for primary survey of the project entitled COENCOSA.
I-PAG chief executive Syed Munir Khasru gave address of welcome. CUTS Associate Director & Research Coordinator Rashid S. Kaukab and the Asia Foundation Country Representative Hasan M. Mazumdar gave introductory speeches while senior researcher and trade specialist Mohammad Muaz Jalil gave thematic presentation.
Beside, several research papers were presented at the day-long workshop.
Eminent international and national experts, members from diplomatic and development community, intellectuals and academia attended the meeting.
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