ISLAMABAD  – South Asia accounts for just 2 per cent of world trade and 1.7 per cent of world foreign direct investment, while its intraregional trade makes up less than 6 per cent of its total trade, making it one of the least integrated regions in the world.

According to Asian Development Bank (ADB) it takes 32 days on average to complete trade-related procedures in South Asia, which is among the highest in the world. Nearly 70 per cent of the time is spent on the assembly and processing of large number of documents indicating high inefficiency at an institutional level.

It said improving trade facilitation systems to international standards could potentially see intraregional trade within South Asia rise by 60 per cent and trade with the rest of the world grow by over 30 per cent.

“The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program is a project-based initiative to promote economic cooperation through the enhancement of cross-border connectivity and facilitation of trade among its member countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal,”the Bank said, adding that The Asian Development Bank serves as the SASEC Secretariat, and provides investment and technical assistance to support the planning, preparation, and implementation of priority subregional projects.

It further said under the RCS, ADB’s support will focus on the construction and improvement of transport corridors connecting countries within the region and with countries in neighboring regions, the construction and improvement of port facilities, civil aviation infrastructure, and logistics systems.

ADB will support SASEC trade facilitation in customs modernization and harmonization, strengthening of logistics services and facilities, integrated cross-border management, transit agreements, and simplification of procedures for business visas.

It added that the targets of ADB support in the SASEC energy sector will be improved cross-border electricity transmission connectivity, increased power trade, enhanced cooperation in energy efficiency and clean power development, and improved capacity.