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Pakistan Headlines

Published Date: Apr 3, 2015

UN-ESCAP chief calls for setting up SAARC development bank (Pakistan Headlines)

Pakistan, as a host of the forthcoming SAARC summit, should bring down SAFTA sensitive list, liberalise trade under SATIS, facilitate intra-regional investments, encourage the establishment of a SAARC development bank to catalyze cross borders infrastructure investments, and facilitate SAARC agreement on railways and road connectivity.

Dr Nagesh Kumar, the Head of UN-ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office, New Delhi, said this on Friday. He was delivering a special lecture on “Re-imaging Role of Pakistan in SAARC Region,” organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Dr Kumar said an integrated South Asia would be able to play its due role for the emergence of broader regionalism in the region. He suggested that it was ripe time that South Asian governments must unite to take a collective position in global trade negotiations. “In the past, the regional export growth was due to expansion of global demand, however, product diversification did not take place,” he said, adding that this implies that South Asia could not take benefit of regional value chains. The UN expert highlighted that India -Sri Lanka free trade agreement had helped in balanced expansion of bilateral trade which was a lesson for other South Asian countries.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said this year Pakistan would be hosting the SAARC summit, therefore, all the government departments related to SAARC cooperation in energy, water, trade, road and rail connectivity need to prepare themselves in this regard. He said policy research think tanks could help the government departments in preparing their research and advocacy strategies. He stressed the need for a political consensus for engaging SAARC member countries in different sectors.

SDPI Deputy Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed said the PPP government before 2013 had a Look-East Orientation in trade policy whereas the present government now has a Look-West Orientation in trade policy with a focus on cooperation with Central Asia rather than South Asia.

He further said that this frequent policy shift did not lead to stable growth in trade volumes. The trade potential with SAARC countries is not being achieved due to political deadlock between India and Pakistan and these fraught relations between the two countries are not letting Pakistan to join integrated Asian market, Dr Vaqar said.

“Pakistan must give MFN status to India, as the government had committed in 2011 and later in 2013,” he said, adding that unfortunately the official notification was yet to be released. Commenting on the non-tariff barriers, he stressed the need for improved border management for trade through land borders, road connectivity and trade in electricity and gas.