5th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave (SBLC)

SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI) organised 5th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave with its theme “South Asian Century: Progressing towards Regional Integration” in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry and National Federations/ Chambers of SAARC member nations, In partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) & The World Bank Group - as the knowledge Partner on 16-17th Jan 2014, in New Delhi, India.

The Conclave aims at providing policy recommendations for the SAARC Summit scheduled in Nepal for promotion of economic activities in SAARC to policy makers at the highest level.

The Conclave witnessed the congregation of large business delegations from Afghanistan Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Over 500 leading business leaders and eminent International experts, Academia, Media and social scientists from across the region deliberated for two days on various pertinent issues of regional economic cooperation.

The Conclave was inaugurated by Mr Anand Sharma, Hon’ble Minister of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. The Conclave was addressed by H E Mozammel Shinwari, Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry, Afghanistan, H E Tofail Ahmed , Minister, Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh, H.E. Norbu Wangchuk, Minister of Economic Affairs, Bhutan, H.E. Mohamed Saeed, Minister for Economic Development, Maldives, H.E Shanker Prasad Koirala, Minister for Commerce and Supplies, Nepal, H. E Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister for State for Commerce and Textile, Pakistan, H.E. Abdul Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Sri Lanka and H.E. Mr Ahmed Saleem, Secretary General, SAARC

Senior officials from Member States addressed the contemporary and emerging issues like repositioning of South Asia in Asian Century, regional integration, Energy, water and Climate Change, Trade Facilitation, trade and investment etc’. The Conclave organized specials sessions on Young Entrepreneurs in South Asia, while recommending the Governments of South Asia to provide business enabling environment to foster the process of regional integration.

Declaration:

The Fifth SAARC Business Leaders Conclave adopted the following Policy Reform Agenda with a consensus:

  1 We, at this 5th Conclave, representing the entire private sector through the National Federations of each 8 Countries unanimously adopt to emphasize on the Governments of the Member Countries to engage seriously on regional integration progress and to enhance its role in “Asian Century” and further request to take appropriate urgent measures to implement the action plan envisioned for deeper integration of South Asia.
  2 To progress towards Regional Integration, we recommend for enhancing connectivity through road, rail, air, sea/river, communication, exchange of people and to facilitate the private sector for investment in the area of tourism, health, culture, education, banking and finance
  3 We perceive “lack of political will” as serious hurdle for regional economic integration, and recommend resolution of core issues through bold initiatives and exhibiting greater political will to augment socio- economic cooperation in the region; It will inspire and motivate entrepreneurs of South Asia to focus on Intra-regional trade and Investment
  4 To fully exploit the benefits of geographical proximity and to boost trade and intra-investment creation of business enabling environment is essential. We request for implementation of a doable Trade Facilitation Mechanism in true spirit. We urge upon the Governments of South Asian countries to implement SAARC Transit Agreement, shipment agreement, Logistics Agreements. ICT Agreement to make SAFTA a workable expeditiously mechanism, leading to Customs Union;
  5 Realizing enormous potential in cross border trade and investment in the region, we, recommend for ratification of South Asian Agreement of Trade, Investment and Services (SATIS) and up-gradation of SAFTA into a Comprehensive Economic Frame work Agreement
  6 We regard Energy, Water management , Climate Change and Food Security as major contemporary challenges, which need to be addressed through proactive and long-term measures at regional level. We urge upon the leaders of South Asia to adopt and implement Regional Environment Treaty; activation of SAARC Food Bank and SAARC Disaster Management centre to minimize the impact of natural calamities and climate changes.
  7 Uninterrupted supply of energy is unavoidable to ensure sustainable socio-economic growth of the region. Governments of South Asia need earnestly, to build necessary infrastructure, lessen regulatory mechanism and encourage public-private- partnerships to foster cooperation in energy and to make SAARC Energy Grid workable. We strongly recommend a common SAARC Energy policy and identify and implement power production units with definite plan and intension for trans border transmission and trade in energy;
  8 We, consider socio-economic empowerment of the Youth in the region as important element of regional integration. The energy, dynamism and valued-added knowledge and expertise of youth can help augment the pace of regional development. We recommend to the Governments of South Asia to take proactive initiatives to engage young business leaders in futuristic development plans

To foster the process of regional cooperation and carry forward the agenda of regionalism in South Asia, we urge for immediate and adequate measures for the following:

  To promote economic cooperation in the region, the free movement of the businesspersons needs to be ensured through flexible Visa Regime. We reiterate here the issuance of at least 500 SAARC Visa Exemption Stickers for businessmen from each country of South Asia with the validity period of one year and withdrawal of cumbersome policy procedures
  Harmonization of customs procedures and mutual recognition of Standards and Certifications and adoption of one-page document for clearance of goods
  Finalization and expeditiously implementation of Regional Motor Vehicle Transport Agreement including Road, Rail and Shipping protocol and introduction of SAARC flag carriers, ensuring clearance of SAARC vessels on priority basis
  Opening of SAARC bank with its branches in all member states to promote financial cooperation and to facilitate cross border trade and investment
  Allow investment through direct channels instead of Government routes
  Truly implement Open Sky policy in the region - linking not only directs flights between capitals but to all other major cities of South Asia;
  To promote trade through land borders and to place electronic data interchange mechanism as an effective tool to foster supply chain in the region
  Allowing content sharing and co-production in entertainment sector and to encourage joint sector project in ITES sector in addition to broadcasting of TV Channels (Government and Private) of all SAARC Countries in the entire region; allow
  Formation of South Asian Integration and Promotional Agency, protecting/ promoting SAARC common Cultural Heritage.
  Inclusion of private Sector representatives and technocrats in regional policy boards, group of eminent persons and allied organizations/centres of SAARC

In order to deepen this process, the SAARC CCI will organize next SAARC Business Leaders Conclave in 2015.


(Left to Right) Mr. Siegfried Herzog, Regional Director, Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Hon’ ble Tofail Ahmed , Minister, Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh, Hon’ble Norbu Wangchuk, Minister of Economic Affairs, Bhutan, Mr. V. S. Sahney, President, SAARC CCI , Hon’ ble Mr Anand Sharma, Hon’ble Minister of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, H.E Mr Ahmed Saleem, Secretary General, SAARC, Mr. Sidharth Birla, President, FICCI, Hon’ble Mohamed Saeed, Minister for Economic Development, Maldives , Hon’ble Shanker Prasad Koirala, Minister for Commerce and Supplies, Nepal, Hon’ble Engr. Khurram Dastgir Khan, Federal Minister for Commerce and Textile, Pakistan, Hon’ble Abdul Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Sri Lanka joining hand together on the occasion of declaration passed on 5th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave 2014 on January 17-18 at New Delhi, India.

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