Lahore

The Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called for simplifying visa regime, liberalize banking procedures and fast-track customs clearance to boost intra-regional capital flows in South Asia.

It is unfortunate that despite remaining in proximity, South Asian countries did less than 5 per cent trade among them as lack of physical connectivity; political will and long list of products under sensitive list have remained stumbling block for enhanced trade in the region.

Quoting global trade statistics the Saarc CCI vice president Iftikhar Malik said that volume of trade between Saarc states and the rest of the world is increasing and intra-regional trade remains far below its potential. So, it is the need for gradual reduction and eventual elimination of tariffs, para-tariffs and non-tariff barriers so as to allow freer trade amongst the Saarc states.

He said that a good starting point for this could be the simplification of procedures for the issuance of Safta Certificates of Origin. Work on the sensitive lists should be aimed at gradually phasing out these lists. We have to evolve a mechanism to incentivise formal trade among the Saarc member countries, he added.

He said that given the size of the population of Saarc countries, it is imperative that our policies promote inclusive growth as promotion of peace in the region is equally important.

Pakistan, he said, is contributing to regional peace and the country has paid a high cost both in blood and treasure by sacrificing tens of thousands of precious human lives in the war on terror which has also resulted in economic losses to the tune of over $100 billion, Iftikhar Malik said. Talking about energy crisis, he regretted that most of the Saarc member countries were facing power shortages despite the fact that the region has the potential to generate cheap and clean energy.

TDAP Chief Executive SM Munir said that project of regional integration which has been undertaken relates to the transmission of electricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan will provide 1300MW of electricity.

FPCCI president Mian Adrees said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would open up the Central Asian region by building roads, railways and consequently the enhanced trade potential of the region. He said that Saarc member countries can fight with growing global challenges by increasing cooperation and information sharing.