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Published Date: May 7, 2013

SDPI Press Release (May 7, 2013)

Expert
at a roundtable meeting on trade barriers have identified trade as an
instrument of peace and emphasized on South Asian nations to make serious
efforts for enhanced economic integration.

They
were discussing at a roundtable conference titled “Public-Private Dialogue on
Non-Tariff Barriers in South Asia” organized by Sustainable Development Policy
Institute (SDPI) here on Tuesday.  The participants of the meeting
included members of business community, chambers of commerce and associations,
members of consumer rights organizations and representatives of government
departments and ministries. Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director, SDPI
started the proceedings while Roubina Ather, Joint Secretary, Ministry of
Commerce and Industry and Iqbal Taabish from SAARC Chamber of Commerce and
Industry presented opening remarks.  

During
discussion, the participants pointed out the fact 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’.

Participants
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 now 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, they added.

Another
issue that was touched upon meeting was unavailability of updated data
regarding non-tarif barriers in the countries. They also 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 analyzing trade issues.

The
meeting concluded with pinning high hopes on newly established ‘Joint India
Pakistan Business Council’. The discussants 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 which they said, can help leverage trade and
ultimately make it an instrument of peace in the region.