Anand Sharma urges SAARC nations to recognize opportunities for economic growth

New Delhi, Jan.16: Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Thursday urged the SAARC nations to recognize the opportunities that exist for economic growth and development in the region.

He also expressed concern that the intra regional trade amongst the SAARC countries is among the lowest in the world.

“Considering the trade that was there, even before we became a free nation, the intra regional trade today it is the lowest perhaps in the world. Merely 6 percent is the intra regional trade amongst the SAARC countries,” he said while addressing the 5th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave here today.

Sharma further said that the countries could enhance trade only by ensuring that the economic output is more and value added manufacturing takes place in their countries.

“The trade as such needs to be connected with the economic activity that is investment, job creation, and resource generation. Equally important it would be to benefit from the SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) agreements, free trade agreements,” he said.

“Second is about connectivity, and third is benefitting from the opportunity of movement of goods by road besides creating the necessary infrastructure and also the port linkages,” he added.

He further noted that if the region allowed the free movement of commerce through the land from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, connecting Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, trade could be multiplied manifold.

“Today trade is taking place. What the official figures reflect is not the correct picture, because much of the goods get imported, exported or re-exported through third countries, where the cost also escalates with every transaction. We can eliminate those cost escalations and also enhance trade,” he said.

“We have opened up to investments, and we are encouraging investments by India into SAARC countries,” he added. (ANI)