SAARC cannot progress in isolation, Iftikhar Ali Malik

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LAHORE : SAARC CCI Senior Vice President (SVP) Iftikhar Ali Malik said that the SAARC, a regional organization cannot progress in isolation and called to strengthen the means for practical engagement with other Asians and with selected International Organisations in particular, for the development efforts in the region.

Speaking at an Iftar dinner hosted in his honour by city business community on his elevation as Senior Vice President of SAARC Chamber at local hotel here last night, Iftikhar Ali Malik said the SAARC nations must not hesitate to build new structures and mechanisms, to enable SAARC to attain its full potential. He said it is time to find out partners from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since it is home of about 550 million people whose living standard is rising with the passage of time.

Highlighting the trade volume of SAARC member states with Southeast Asian countries, he said India has trade worth more than $12 billion with ASEAN, while Pakistan’s trade stands at about $2 billion and that too is majorly in favor of the member states. He said the trade volume of Pakistan with these states should have been at least $5 billion. He also said South Asian region should also strengthen trade relations with The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a Eurasian political and economic intergovernmental organization which was founded in 1985 in Tehran. “Meaningful trade in the region cannot take place without better cooperation on transport, infrastructure and connectivity among the member states,” he said.

“Central Asia has emerged as a Trans-Eurasia land bridge, and oil and gas pipelines are linking our markets with the rest of the world,” he observed. He emphasizing the importance of empowering the economy in the rural areas of the countries said that the economic progress should filter down to the village level and touch the community at all levels. He said that businessmen of SAARC member states can influence their respective governments and advice them how to make trade and economic relations better.

Iftikhar Malik said that seven areas of cooperation have been identified give boost intra-SAARC trade. He said that issues of visa should be resolved while there should be no visa restriction for the businessmen. He said that we should improve understanding to get trade & economic scenario within the SAARC region better.He said that though it seems difficult but it is not impossible that we must collaborate with each other with confidence and trust especially focusing on easing trade and visa restrictions. For that matter, we have to encourage people-to-people contacts, cooperate in all fields of life and explore such avenues of liaison which can promote feel-good factors among us.

He said that the member states of SAARC are still far from their goal of regional economic integration. It is important to build a sound foundation without which the goal of South Asian Economic Union would only remain a dream. “There have been many laudable resolves, decisions and agreements but almost all of them have fallen by the wayside due to poor or non-implementation,” he added.

“Efforts should also be made to accelerate tariff liberalization program. It is imperative to develop and forge regional cooperation in different areas, though implementation would primarily require strong will and commitment shown by all the heads of states,” he concluded.

He thanked the business community for celebrating his appointment as SVP and assured them that he will never let down the SAARC Chamber and all out efforts will be made to make it an effective forum for the rapid economic integration and development.

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