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‘This is Right Time for Pakistan to Become Driving Force in SAARC’

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LAHORE– Global geopolitical changes have made the role of Pakistan of utmost importance. Tenure of Pakistan as the head of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has given it a chance to work as a driving force for peace, progress, prosperity, stability, poverty alleviation, economic, cultural and social development in South Asia.

These views were expressed by the SAARC President Iftikhar Ali Malik, LCCI President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar and Vice President Mian Zahid Jawaid Ahmad while speaking at a meeting at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Former LCCI Presidents Tariq Hameed, Shahid Hassan Sheikh, Muhammad Ali Mian, former Senior Vice President Mian Nauman Kabir, Kh. Shahzeb Akram, Zeshan Khalil and Executive Committee Members also spoke on the occasion.

Iftikhar Ali Malik said that there is a need to strengthen regional trade and economic cooperation among the SAARC countries. He said that this is the right time to do more joint ventures with SAARC countries in all sectors of economy. This is the era of information technology therefore, we have to develop I.T connection with the regional countries.

SAARC President said that there is a dire need to focus on Agro-based technical training as Pakistan is behind in this particular area as compared to other countries. “We have similar climate situations, same kind of land and same recourses” he said and added that Pakistan would have to focus on technical training and research in agriculture sector to come at par with the regional countries like  China and India.

LCCI President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh said that since 1985, this SAARC Chamber has been playing its important role in bringing all the members countries close to each other. He said that in Asia and elsewhere, countries are effectively harnessing the immense power of regional trade and investment to face the challenges of globalization.

“We in South Asia, home to 1.7 billion people are still talking of developing a unified mechanism for the promotion of trade and economic cooperation in the SAARC region. Special focus must be paid on developing close liaison among the SAARC partners because as long as there is mistrust among the regional partners, there is no possibility for regional cooperation to thrive”, Irfan Iqbal Sheikh added.

He said that the global exports increased from 16.5 trillion dollars in 2015 to 18.8 trillion dollars in 2019. Exports of SAARC nations have also been on the rise during this period, reaching 408 billion dollars in 2019 as compared to 330 billion dollars in 2015. However, the share of SAARC countries in global exports is just around 2% which should be further enhanced.

The LCCI President said that we must take lead from organizations like ASEAN that has made good headway in regional cooperation as ASEAN’s exports are around 8% of global exports. He said that we, despite having sufficient potential of regional trade, continue to lag behind. Pakistan’s exports to SAARC countries are just 2.39 billion dollars which is just 10% of our total exports.

Irfan Iqbal Sheikh said that there is a need for improving connectivity among SAARC countries through not only railway and road corridors but also through inland waterway transport and aviation, which would not only enhance physical, economic and people to people connectivity, but will also create greater prospects for better regional transport connectivity.

“There is a need for creation of regional energy market including through SAARC power grid and SAARC market for electricity trade and in other energy sources such as oil & gas and particularly renewable energy technologies”, he added.

LCCI Senior Vice President Ali Hussam Asghar and Vice President Mian Zahid Jawaid Ahmad said that financial cooperation in SAARC can also facilitate in closing infrastructure gaps and building productive capacities. Likewise, establishment of SAARC Central Bank with its regional branches in all capitals and major commercial cities across the region may also prove useful in achieving these objectives.

The LCCI office-bearers said that a multilateral arrangement for product compliance to technical standards, should be adopted within the SAARC framework as soon as possible to alleviate barriers to trade. Similarly, there is also a need for harmonization of customs procedures and documentations in the SAARC region to facilitate movement of goods across the borders.— PRESS RELEASE