SAARC CCI Lecture Series: Importance of Free Trade for Regional Economic Cooperation in South Asia

26 October 2010,
Islamabad Pakistan

SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized Lecture on Importance of Free Trade for Regional Economic Cooperation in South Asia in collaboration with Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and industry in Partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation at Conference Hall of ICCI on October 26, 2010 in Islamabad , Pakistan.

The lecture was delivered by Mr. Siegfried Hezog, Regional Director of Friedrich Neumann Stiftung and sum up by Mr. Zubair Ahmed Malik, Chief Coordinator EFN Pakistan and Former Vice President FPCCI.

Mr. Siegfried Hezog, Regional Director of Friedrich Neumann Stiftung and economist from Germany gave lecture on the importance of Free Trade in Regional economic Cooperation and highlighted various aspects of Free Trade and urged for creating synergies to achieve the goals of free trade. He highlighted the rationale for free trade and mentioned that free trade is not a zero sum game as perceived by many who opposed it. In fact, free trade provides synergies to expand the volume of trade and its derived benefits.

Secretary General, SAARC CCI, Iqbal Tabish in his introductory remarks said that though the success of leading trade blocs like NAFTA, EU, ASEAN and COMESA have given momentum to other Free Trade Agreements, the pace of development of SAARC was slow because of the presence of long list of negative items, small economies misperceptions, and hidden barriers, which were impeding to trade in South Asia. He said that although the volume of intra-SAARC Trade was estimated $ 16 billion in 2009, the share of trade under SAFTA rule of origin was only $ 682 million, which was insignificant.

Mr. Mahfooz Elahi, President ICCI while emphasizing on the importance of movement of labour and capital said that the benefits of Free Trade were enormous, however, coordinated efforts and flexible Visa regime was required to achieve them.

Dr, Ayub Mehar discussed factors and consequences of free trade in the South Asian Paradigm. He emphasized that free trade requires free mobilization of the factors of production including capital, labor, enterprenuership and land’ though physical mobility of land is not possible its benefits are always transferable. The most problematic area is the mobility of labor where several hindrances are working against the free mobility of labor. He indicated that such restriction will divide the each country in two parts: masters and slavers.

The session was concluded by Mr. Zubair Malik by highlighting the points raised and discussed by the participants. He regarded mind set of political leaders as the serious impediment and demanded for change in mindset.

S5 Box