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The Express Tribune

Published Date: May 8, 2013

Bilateral trade termed passageway to peace

Experts
at a roundtable on Tuesday, identified trade as an instrument of peace and
emphasised on South Asian nations to work towards enhancing economic
integration, said a press release.

Titled
“Public-Private Dialogue on Non-Tariff Barriers in South Asia”, the discussion
was organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

The
participants included members of business community, chambers of commerce and
associations, members of consumer rights organisations and representatives of
government departments and ministries.

SDPI
Deputy Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed started the proceedings while Ministry
of Commerce Joint Secretary Roubina Ather and Iqbal Taabish from SAARC Chamber
of Commerce and Industry presented opening remarks. The participants pointed
out that South Asian regional integration was held hostage by India and
Pakistan by not moving forward on crucial bilateral issues.

It
was observed that bilateral trade among the states was ranked extremely low in
priorities of South Asian governments including Pakistan. Referring to positive
examples, they cited the case of East Africa where countries have established
separate ministries of Regional Integration.

They
also highlighted that much work had already been done to identify non-tariff
barriers as well as other trade restrictive measures. The need of hour is to
move forward and devise ways and means to resolve these non-tariff barriers so
that intra-regional trade in South Asia can be increased, said a participant.

Another
issue discussed at the meeting was unavailability of updated data regarding
non-tariff barriers in the countries.

The
speakers pointed towards strengthening the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and
Industries as well as local chambers which up till now were ineffective in
giving sound policy recommendations mainly because of sheer lack of capacity in
analysing trade issues. The meeting concluded with pinning high hopes on
newly-established Joint India Pakistan Business Council. The participants
termed other South Asian countries as equally important and urged the need for
further research on trade with these countries as well.

They
also demanded to reflect consumer voices in South Asian economic discourse.