CII calls for right environment to boost trade in SAARC region

With proper implementation of South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), all the SAARC members can leverage regional dynamics for economic growth through dedicated efforts to facilitate trade and economic cooperation, CII said ahead of the SAARC summit.

The 17th SAARC Summit is scheduled in Maldives on 10-11 November. SAARC countries are - Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
CII said the services component of SAFTA should be made a priority and more services should be included under the pact.

The chamber asked the leaders to work towards lowering non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and border costs to enhance intra-regional trade.

"Since countries in this region specialise in similar goods, lowering and reducing NTBs will allow them to easily obtain raw materials from their neighbours. This will (help) in expanding exports of finished products to the rest of the world," it said.

Greater economic integration within South Asian region would not only enhance the attractiveness of the region to foreign investors, but also address inter and intra country inequalities, CII added.

The members can explore new sectors like services, energy, electricity and logistical connectivity to increase economic cooperation between SAARC members.

CII also urged South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders to consider integration of electricity grids across South Asia to reduce costs and enhance manufacturing competitiveness.

"The vast hydro-electric potential of Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and India could be tapped. Natural gas reserves in Bangladesh and Pakistan could also be included," it said, adding that development of better logistics hubs would facilitate cross-border movement of goods and reduce costs.

The chamber has suggested a pan-South Asian pipeline for transit of natural gas through Myanmar, Iran and Turkmenistan.

Further, it said that the SAARC countries should focus on cooperation in climate change, sustainable energy, education, skill development and healthcare.

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