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Regional blocks to build trust among themselves for better development growth: Sharma

Posted on Jan 30, 09:46AM | UNI

Agra, Jan 29 : Union minister for commerce, industry and textiles Anand Sharma today said the South Asian countries need to learn from the best practices of other regional blocs like NAFTA and ASEAN, which have taken intra regional trade to greater heights

Mr Sharma addressing the plenary session on 'South Asia Economic Integration: On a New Path of Progress and Hope' during the 19th CII Partnership Summit, jointly organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Government of Uttar Pradesh here, said regional cooperation is reality in all parts of the world and efforts should be made to remove all bottlenecks

"Tangible results may come out from the close cooperation among the SAARC nations," Mr Sharma said adding that SAFTA is a reality today and progressing well with special provisions for LDCs. The minister said building trust was critical for enduring peace and development of the region, therefore working together was not an option but an imperative. He said encouraging direct trade, minimisation of trade barriers, removing bottlenecks and providing transit will go a long way in encouraging trade among the nations

Mr Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady, Minister for Commerce and Industry, Afghanistan claimed that India was the engine of growth in South Asia

"With investor-friendly policies and tax holiday for 2013-2015, low land prices and rich natural resources, Afghanistan offers an excellent opportunity to international investors," said Mr Ahady said inviting investors to look into the immense opportunities available in his country

Mr Ghulam Muhammed Quader, Minister for Commerce of Bangladesh said regional cooperation may facilitate Bangladesh in becoming a middle income country by 2021. A "Joint Working Group on trade and customs between India and Bangladesh has resulted in lowering trade barriers, both tariff and non-tariff, benefitting both the countries," he said

"We are working towards the common goal of South Asia Economic Union," Mr Anil Kumar Jha, Minister of Industry, Nepal, said, adding that countries within the region needed to work and think in the direction of creating a truly economic bloc by removing all sorts of barriers

Mr Adi Godrej, President, CII and Chairman, Godrej Group, noted that integration would help in facilitating trade

CII on its part is advocating removal of all barriers related to cross country trade, enhancing people-to-people contact, strengthening road links, smoothening transit facilities and enhancing market access. He informed about CII's initiatives in imparting skills in LDCs particularly Afghanistan

"South Asia is one of the unique and fastest growing regions and home to a large population," Mr Subodh Bhargava, past President, CII and Chairman, TATA Communications Ltd stated. Partnership was key to enhance the share of intra regional trade, which at present stood at a meagre 5 per cent

Mr Amin Hashwani, Director, Hashwani Group of Companies, Pakistan elaborated on the role of civil society in cementing the regional partnership. Civil society was pushing for integration of the societies and was also facilitating the dialogue for enduring peace and prosperity

"Private sector has provided extraordinary leadership in building the partnership, what is required now is robust infrastructure to reap the benefits of this partnership," urged Mr Suraj Vaidya, President, Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI). He called for speedy implementation of decisions taken during the SAARC meetings

During the session, an agreement between Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) was signed to encourage trade and investment between the two countries and to facilitate trade promotion activities