Sunday, July 15, 2012

Non-tariff barriers hit intra-regional trade

Non-tariff barriers deter intra-regional trade in South Asia and need to be addressed through modern technology, positive approach and shared vision, according to Sri Lankan minister for external affairs Prof GL Peiris.
Members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should look towards improving intra-regional trade as a way towards stronger political union, he said, inaugurating a seminar on 'Trade Facilitation in South Asia: Addressing barriers to foster Trade Chain,' organised by SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
"SAARC is not just about political unity but economic unity as well," he said, adding that trade had brought European countries towards political and monetary union. "They started with trade and once the benefits of it were realised, they proceeded to agreeing on seemingly intractable issues."
"I’m not saying that monetary union is necessary or even desirable for SAARC, but we must learn from their example, because trade is a potent instrument as even a partial solution to improving trade will benefit all," added Peiris.
He also urged business representatives of the region to lobby with their respective governments to remove barriers to intra-regional trade. "Business people themselves need to seek out greater business synergies within the region with joint promotion of tourist packages, offering trips to multiple tourist destinations within the SAARC region."
The free movement of business people within the region has been an issue. Business people must have freedom of movement within the South Asian region and they must be given visas for extended periods when national security is not at stake, said Peiris.
South Asia's intra-regional trade stands roughly at five per cent as compared to 58 per cent in the European Union, 52 per cent in the North American Free Trade Area, and 26 per cent in the Association of South East Asian Nations.
Former Nepali finance minister Madhukar Rana also addressed the seminar organised by SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Sri Lanka in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Regional Directorate, New Delhi.
Similarly, president of SAARC CCI Vikramjit Singh Sahney, president of National Chamber of Sri Lanka Kumar Mallimaratchi, vice presidents of SAARC CCI Mahendra Parmar (India), Iftikhar Ali Malik (Pakistan), Kosala Wikramanayake (Sri Lanka) and Subodh Kumar (India), immediate past president Annisul Huq and founder member and former president of SAARC CCI Tariq Sayeed also addressed the seminar.

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