ISLAMABAD      -    SAARC Chamber (SAARC CCI) Sunday stressed the urgent need for fully exploiting immense trade avenues and investment potentials for economic integration in the region as South Asia  holds strategic position in the world.

Leader of Pakistani delegation Iftikhar Ali Malik, currently attending 78th SAARC Chamber Executive committee meeting addressing the concluding session said SAARC member countries must focus on removal of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and work for enhancing B2B interaction to boost trade. He highlighted that although SAARC region holds immense trade and investment potential, being home to 21 percent of world’s population, it still remains one of the least integrated regional blocs with intra-regional trade constituting only 5 percent of the total world trade, in comparison to 51 percent for NAFTA and 25 percent for ASEAN.

He said about 55 per cent of the total potential for intra-regional trade in South Asia has not been fully exploited yet and this can be improved through shared vision about objectives, transfer of technology and exchange of research and development.

He also mentioned that SAFTA has fallen short of expectations due to complex safeguard measures and non-tariff barriers (NTBs) among SAARC member countries.

Iftikhar Malik said the leading business communities of all 8 countries feel that closer collaboration amongst businessmen is integral for regional integration and is a win-win situation for all stakeholders. “At SAARC CCI, our aim is to facilitate businesses of South Asia and to encourage investors from SAARC region and beyond to invest in SAARC countries. We strongly feel that this exchange will address major challenges the region faces; job creation for the youth of South Asia, our region’s biggest asset; and poverty,” he added. But for this, the South Asian leaders have to go above whatever they are still thinking about SAARC.

They have to keep in mind that they are the leaders of some of the poorest countries in the world and try to lift the region from its cycle of poverty as SAARC could still be said to be a “bird getting wings to fly” and is yet to come to grips with the warp and woof of regional cooperation for attaining institutionalised cooperation among South Asian countries.

He mentioned that political unrest is happening all over the world. Therefore, he recommends the business world to look beyond it and find solutions regardless of imbalanced political situations. Malik further said despite multiple hurdles, it is a good omen that SAARC CCI role for promotion of business environment in the region was appreciated by its critics.

Highlighting the importance of the South Asia in the world economy, SAARC Chamber under the dynamic leadership of Ruwan Edirisinghe has made notable progress in a number of areas including trade, finance, poverty alleviation, human resource development, women empowerment, children welfare, rural development, anti-terrorism, anti-narcotics and environment, he concluded.

FPCCI President Daroo Khan Achakzai , Hameed Akhtar Chadda, Zubair Malik, Ms Hina Saeed Secretary General and Zulfiqar Butt Deputy Secretary and high level delegates from Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and others members attended the moot and meeting.