Published Date: Dec 7, 2015
South Asian leaders urged to show political will to operationalize SAFTA
Ahsan Iqbal hopes for
further melting of ice between India and Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: (Dec 7, 2015) — South Asian leadership needs to show a strong political will to fully
operationalize South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) by evolving standard trade
procedures, as it is the only way to increase the volume of trade from stagnant
five per cent to a considerable level.
This was the
consensus developed at the 8th South Asia Economic Summit titled ‘Regional
Cooperation of Sustainable Development in South Asia’ here on Monday. The
conference was organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). Economic
experts, thought leaders, and development practitioners from all over the world,
especially from South Asia, are participating in this two-day summit.
Speaking at a session on Corridors for Development Federal Minister for
Planning, Development and Reforms, Government of Pakistan Mr. Ahsan Iqbal said
there is hope towards melting of ice between India and Pakistan following both
the Prime Ministers meeting at COP21 earlier this week”, and the subsequent
meeting of the security advisors of both the countries in Bangkok.
He highlighted the reasons for which 80% of the Pakistan China Economic
Corridor’s $46 Billion investment is focused on power and energy projects, adding
that Pakistan’s investment lies in increasing regional cooperation via economic
and development corridors. Corridors are the future for South Asian countries,
he said, which contribute to only 3% of the global GDP and 40% of their
population lives below the poverty line.
Mr Haroon Sharif of The World Bank, Islamabad spoke on the CASA 1000
project with Central Asian countries and of PCEC to pave way for regional
development. He recommended that economic ties be embedded into countries
foreign policy mandate.
Mr. Nagesh Kumar of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for
Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP), India stressed the need for cooperation
especially in the post global economic crisis where the growth rate of world
trade has fallen substantially from nearly 10% to below 2%.
Present at the occasion were notable dignitaries, Ambassador Halil
Ibrahim Akca, the Secretary General of the Economic Cooperation Organization
and former Ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel, Chairman Board of Governors at the
Sustainable Development Policy Institute.
Earlier, Chairman of
Board of Investment, Pakistan Mr Miftah Ismail said that governments and civil
society have a major role to play in the future of South Asia. He added that mega
projects like Turkmenistan –Afghanistan Pakistan India (TAPI) and Central Asia
and South Asia (CASA) are being given the highest priority by Government of
Welcoming the participants of the conference, SDPI Executive
Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said that this summit is a perfect
representation of South-South and North South cooperation. He said South Asia
is a region with multiple interstate and intrastate conflicts; and finding an
opportunity for public thought leaders to objectively discuss the regional
issues is a big success.
“We have been long on words and theories but short on
actions and implementation. The time to act has been fast passing us by but all
we have done so far is to wait, procrastinate and delay.”
Dr Rajan Bhattarai,
Member of Constituent Assembly and Legislative Parliament, Nepal highlighted
the role of economy in terms of sustainable development and enhanced
cooperation in South Asian context. He said SAARC has become the casualty due
to the nature of relations between India and Pakistan.
Mr Suraj Vaidya, the
President-In-Charge of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stressed the
need for removal of trade barriers for meaningful progress in the region.
Speaking at the inaugural plenary titled ‘10 years of SAFTA
and Way Forward’, Mr Saman
Kelegama, Executive Director of Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Sri Lanka pointed
out the lack of regional trade as an impediment to future cooperation. He said that SAFTA will become
operationalized until 2020.
Mr Martin Rama, The World Bank’s
Chief Economist of South Asia Region said that South Asia can build upon past
successes such as the Indus Water Treaties as well as common culture to
overcome trust deficit in the region.
Mr Sonam Tashi from Policy and Planning Division, Ministry
of Economic Affairs, Bhutan said that the SAARC region’s comparative advantage
needs to be utilized for the benefit of the people of the region.
Mr Rajan Sudesh Ratna, Economic Affairs Officer, United
Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), Bangkok, emphasized the
need to reduce duties in SAFTA to zero and liberalization of services and
investment in order for economic integration of south Asia.
Mr M. Syeduzzaman,
the former Finance Minister of Bangladesh, concluded the session by reaffirming
the thoughts offered by other speakers in terms of the need for further
cooperation and trust development amongst SAARC nations.
Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed said this
year’s South Asia Economic Summit will be a reminder for the relevant
government departments to act on promises made in the previous SAARC summit and
to complete the agenda left incomplete in the Kathmandu Summit.
research publications were launched by the chairman of Board of Investment.
They included ‘Making Growth Inclusive Just and Sustainable in South Asia’,
‘Towards South Asia Economic Union’, ‘Special Issue of South Asia Economic
Journal’, and ‘Towards Regional Integration in South Asia; Promoting Trade
Facilitation and Connectivity.
The South Asian
Economic Summit will conclude on Tuesday, 8th Dec 2015 and will be
dovetailed by the annual Sustainable Development Conference commencing the same