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Published Date: Dec 7, 2015

Experts call for regional cooperation & exploitation of trade potential

ISLAMABAD: (Dec
7, 2015 ) Economists, policy
makers and thought leaders at the 8th South Asia Economic Summit
here on Monday, stressing the need for regional cooperation, trade promotion
and role of private sector in South Asia, unanimously agreed on exploiting
trade potential in the South Asian region.

Speaking at a penal on ‘Facing Critical
Challenges of Trade Promotion in South Asia’, Member of Constituent Assembly
and Legislative Parliament, Nepal Mr Rajan Bhattarai said political differences
should be kept distant from economy in order to promote trade in the region. He
said dialogue between countries is important to reduce security challenges,
which Mr Suraj Vadiya, President In-charge of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, Nepal pointed out as big hurdles for trade in the region.

Executive Member
of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Pakistan Mr Zubair Ahmed Malik pointed out the critical challenges to
trade and economic promotions, including infrastructural and port efficiency challenges,
problems with border crossing and customs leading to costly delays.

Ms Nisha Taneja from Indian Council
for Research on International Economic Relations (CRIER) said that India and
Pakistan are the countries in South Asia which are the members of International
Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). She added that all the member
countries should benchmark their reform measures against global standards.

On empowerment of women, Ms Shaista Pervaiz Malik, Member
of National Assembly, said that it was crucial for trade in the region. She called
for resolving differences among neighbouring countries.

Speaking at
another penal on ‘Regional Cooperation for Energy Security’, energy experts underscored
the need for securing regional peace and security, developing facilitative
state attitudes, and brooding of an amicable Weltanschauung amongst Track II diplomats too before we embark upon
any regional or bilateral energy related project in South Asia.

Alias Wardak, the
Managing Director of
New Beginning Network, Afghanistan Branch
highlighted the need for adopting a project driven approach on regional level
rather than just towing a study driven approach. He said new energy projects should
be undertaken under the framework of public private partnerships with private
sector taking the lead role, and the only way forward was through regional
peace and security.

In the energy
sector, market imperfections on regional level were highlighted by SDPI’s Arshad
H. Abbasi. He said the discriminatory pricing regimes were a drawback of
bilateral energy agreements. This called for the establishment of ‘a dedicated
regional energy agency’ as suggested by Prateep S. Mehta, Secretary General,
CUTS International, in order to plan initiatives towards regional cooperation.

Shoaib Ahmed,
the Deputy Director of SAARC Energy Center, emphasized the identification of energy
supplies and inter-connections and to treat it as a continuous process. Also,
the scope of SAARC Inter-governmental Framework Agreement for Cooperation in
Electricity (IGFA) needs to be widened to energy commodities other than
electricity too.

Selina Irfan,
Co-ordinator of LEAD Pakistan, punctuated the need for a South Asian Energy
Security Index. She also lamented the tendency of policy formulators towards
short-term energy solutions in South Asia. She called for a long-term approach
to tackle energy related issues.

 

Speaking at the
other penal on ‘Leadership for Sustainable Development: Role of Private
Sector’, former chairman of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Majyd Aziz
said business leaders need to take up a significant role without relying
heavily on the US and UN. Vice-President of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and
Industry Iftikhar Ali Malik said Pakistan has the potential to attract
investment, therefore, bilateral trade with the neighbours should be
encouraged.

Secretary-General,
SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Iqbal Tabish said that with 22% of the world’s population, South Asia is
falling behind in fulfilling MDGs. The role of private sector in leading sustainable
development initiatives was highlighted by representatives from the business
sector, including Chief Executive of Attock Refinery Adil Khattak, who said that an enabling environment
is required for reaping rich potential in South Asia.