Seminar on “ Trade facilitation in South Asia: Prospects and challenges for regional integration” organized by SAARC CCI in collaboration with FPCCI supported by Friedrich Nauman Foundation

March 3rd 2010,
Karachi Pakistan

Seminar on “ Trade facilitation in South Asia: Prospects and challenges for regional integration” organized by SAARC CCI in collaboration with FPCCI supported by Friedrich Nauman Foundation, on 3rd April 2010, Federation House, Karachi. Mr. Zafar Mehmood, Federal Secretary, Commerce, Govt of Pakistan, was chief guest of the seminar.
The session was moderated by Mr. Iqbal Tabish, Secretary General SAARC CCI. The inaugural session was followed by two technical sessions, i.e.Trade Facilitation: A propeller of Regional Economic Integration & Trade Facilitation; Addressing Challenges through compatible policy measures.

The Chief Guest Mr. Zafar Mehmood, Secretary Commerce said that trade is not only instrumental to bring people close together but also made people prosperous. He said that to inflexible visa regime and in absence of trade facilitation mechanism, South Asian countries could not exploit the true potential.

Earlier Mr. Tariq Sayeed, Immediate Past President, SAARC CCI during his key note speech said “Harmonization of standards and procedures relating to customs, non-tariff barriers and political mindset are the major bottle-necks in trade facilitation issues in South Asia”. Referring comparative Trade analysis with other Trade blocks such as EU, NAFTA&ASEAN, he said that SAARC was the least integrated region in the world. He applauded policy measures of the Govt. of Pakistan to wards south Asia and requested compatible measures from other member countries to promote intra SAARC trade.

Dr. Ishrat Hussain Dean and Director IBA and former Governor SBP while addressing to the inaugural session of seminar presented four trends in global trade while emphasizing on shift in policies for promotion of exports in Global Markets compatible to International requirements. He said that in the era of competitiveness, country need to focus on innovative measures and R&D to produce quality products and to stay competitive in the international market.

Mr. Sultan Ahmed Chawla, President FPCCI in his welcome address said that South Asia has enormous potential focusing economic integration to reduce poverty and move the region to unprecedented prosperity. The progress till date in regional integration has been limited as compared to other sub regions in Asia and elsewhere. The Intra-SAARC trade has not increased much since SAFTA has been implemented and there remain considerable tariff and no-tariff barriers within SAFTA. Trade directions of members are mostly involved in western market that incurs higher transportation cost with low profit margin.

First Working session i.e Trade Facilitation “A propeller of Regional Economic Integration” was chaired by Muhammad Ashraf Janjua, Sr. Fellow-Prof. (Eco.), Dean of IBM & For. Deputy Governor-SBP and the Presentations were made on “Harmonization of Custom Procedures and Standards” by Ms. Suwendrani Jayaratne, Research Assistant, Institute of Policy Studies-Sri Lanka, a presentation on Para Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers” by Dr. Muzaffar Ali Isani, Professor of Economics - Iqra University and another presentation on “Indo-Pakistan relations: bottlenecks & way forward” by Dr. Riaz Ahmed Shaikh, Vice Rector-Biztek-Karachi.

The 2nd session “Addressing Challenges through compatible policy measures was Chaired by Engr. M.A Jabbar, former VP-FPCCI and life Member, SAARC CCI who also gave presentation on “People to people contact and Visa Regime in South Asia”. The presentation on Pakistan Policy towards South Asia was made by Mr. Mujeeb Khan-Head WTO Cell, TDAP and Mr. Faridul Hussain, Ex-Director General EPB-Government of Bangladesh presented paper on “Para Tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers-Bangladesh perspective”.

Some of the suggestions to augment Trade Facilitation in South Asia were put forth by speakers, which are as follows:

  • Implementation of SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement in true perspective
  • Adoption of a single page document for customs clearance
  • Harmonisation of Procedures and Standards regarding Customs
  • Removal of Para-tariff and Non-Tariff Barriers
  • Reduction of sensitive list of items from SAFTA
  • Increase in number of Visa Stickers from 100 to 300 for each member states to improve people-to-people contact in the region
  • Road connectivity and improvement in Transportation, Road and rail infrastructure
  • Easing Visa regime particularly by India, Bangladesh and Pakistan

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