South Asia key to revival of global demand, says Nirmala

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South Asia key to revival of global demand, says Nirmala

 With its strong economic growth and rising purchasing power, South Asia is going to be key to revival of global demand and the world cannot ignore this region, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

Speaking at a session at the WEF, leaders from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh said that trade and common physical and social infrastructure are important to harness growth in South Asia.

They, along with business leaders from the region, also concurred that countries must focus on eradicating poverty, the common enemy. With its vast workforce, strong growth and expanding purchasing power, South Asia will be the key to reviving global demand, Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, said.

“The world cannot afford to ignore the region that will be key to reviving demand,” she said. Despite the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) annual summit being cancelled in 2016, because of a terrorist incident in India, Sitharaman said it is important to remember that the South Asian Free Trade Agreement is still going strong and has achieved major gains in intra-regional trade in the past few decades.

She cited border haats, or markets, on the India- Bangladesh border and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway as other examples of increasing regional integration.

Sitharaman said that industrial revolution can “give us answers” and help startups in India provide quick solutions.

“We have to be careful how we play it (industrial revolution) up in our countries,” she added.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal motor vehicles agreement signed two years ago is another sign of closer ties within South Asia.

She emphasised that better connectivity of this kind will be an indispensable part of any strategy aimed at bringing nations and people together.

With 1.8 billion people, 7% GDP growth rate and 25% of the world’s middle class, South Asia offers trade and commerce that can improve people’s quality of life while also keeping peace in a volatile region, the panelists agreed.

Manvinder S Banga, Operating Partner, Clayton, Dubilier and Rice, UK, said as the world begins to de-globalise, there will be more opportunity for intra-regional trade within South Asia.

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