SAARC trade may be improved: Mian Zahid Hussain

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President Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum (PBIF), President All Karachi Industrial Alliance (AKIA), Senior Vice Chairman of the Businessmen Panel of FPCCI and former provincial minister, Mian Zahid Hussain on Monday said that inter SAARC trade is just 5 percent while SAARC share in global trade is less than 2 percent. Population of South Asia is greater that accumulative population of US, Euro-11 and Japan while its GDP is only $ 1924 billion, as compare to GDP of Japan US 3 thousand billion, US $ 8 thousand billion, and Euro-11 $ 5942 billion. The average unemployment in SAARC region is 18 percent while inflation is 7 percent.

The Veteran Business Leader while talking to the business community said that despite huge potential in the region, the current trade is of $ 30 billion which can easily be taken to $ 100 billion to change the fate of the SAARC countries and curb the poverty and unemployment. Euro-11 share in global exports is 20 percent, 23 percent in global imports and it has headquarters of 100 MNCs amongst leading top 500. Similarly, US is responsible for 16 percent of global exports, 15 percent of global imports and hosts headquarters of 151 leading MNCs while Japan is responsible for 10 percent in global exports, 8 percent in global imports and has headquarters of 104 MNCs. In comparison, South Asia has only one share in global trade and has headquarters of only 5 MNCs.

The Former Minister said that SAARC countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan need to strengthen their trade ties and terms, which is vital. To achieve the purpose of better trade between the countries, it is important to improve road transportation, railways, storage facilities on borders and increase in certification bodies. Joint institutions for effective communications and trade connections are required including SAARC development bank for meeting the financial needs of joint institutions and to curb hurdles faced in trade growth.

Mian Zahid Hussain said that many hindrances in increased trade between the SAARC countries include Kashmir dispute in addition to political and historical indifferences, which need to be addressed and resolved. The current president of SAARC chamber of commerce and industry Ruwan Edirisinghe assumed office in March 2018 should take measures for the full functionality of the chamber. The South Asian Free Trade Agreement needs to be reviewed in order to simplify it for the growth of regional trade specifically between SAARC countries, thus increasing the regional trade by 250 percent.

Mian Zahid Hussain said that next president of SAARC will be from Pakistan who will assume charge from March 2020. S. M. Inam and Tariq Saeed have been served as presidents of SAARC CCI in 1993 to 1995 and 2008 to 2010 respectively and have worked for the betterment of regional trade while currently Iftikhar Ali Malik serves as senior vice president of SAARC CCI from Pakistan.

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