Minister stresses trade ties between South Asian countries

The Daily Star, June 29, 2011
Increasing trade ties among South Asian countries means creating a competitive business environment in the region leading to higher standards of living, new investment opportunities, infrastructural development, better products and highly paid jobs, said Commerce Minister Faruk Khan yesterday.

Khan spoke at a regional meeting on “Cost of Economic Non-Cooperation to Consumers in South Asia”, organised by The Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance (I-PAG), Bangladesh in partnership with Consumer Unity & Trust Society, India, at BRAC Centre Inn in Dhaka.

Gowher Rizvi, adviser on international affairs to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, mentioned that there is an untapped potential for increasing trade among countries in South Asia. He indicated that apart from poor infrastructure, state of transport and related services, tense political relations between Saarc nations is an important factor which is slowing down economic integration process in the region.

Given the importance of regional cooperation for the economic development of South Asia, the workshop was organised to generate better awareness amongst the relevant stakeholders regarding the loss of consumer welfare resulting from regional economic non-cooperation.

Syed Munir Khasru, chairman of I-PAG, commented that although Saarc has been running for 26 years, regional trade is yet to reach the level that could unleash the rapid economic development in the region.

While intra-regional trade ranges between 20-60 percent of total trade in other regional economic blocs, for Saarc it has been only about 5 percent between 1995 and 2005, Khasru added.

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