New SAARC Chamber Chief calls for growth in intra-regional trade

*Condemns Visa sticker scheme

By Ravi Ladduwahetty

New SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman, India’s Vikramjit Singh Sahney, in his new policy statement, said that the Chamber needs to develop a mechanism in close association with SAARC governments to increase the present level of Intra-regional trade to 10 percent in the next two years.

He was addressing the 54th Executive Committee Meeting of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry on January 24 in New Delhi.

"We all need to seriously deliberate on such issues, which have been hampering the growth of SAARC since its formation and should work very closely with the SAARC mechanism to play our role in fostering the pace of trade in the region," he said.

"The World today is witnessing dramatic changes on socio-political and economic horizons. In the ongoing era of political economy, where Regional Trade Agreements like AEU, NAFTA, ASEAN, APEC and OECD have gained a great success, the region of South Asia has to go a long way to reach its destination. Since its inception in 1985, the intra-regional trade has insignificantly grown from 3.8 percent to 5.8 percent in 27 years."

Commenting on the liberal Visa Regime in South, he said: "We condemn the newly introduced SAARC Visa Sticker Scheme wherein time period of the validity of the sticker has been curtailed to only three months. It is totally anti-business model. We shall launch a vigorous campaign for the reversal of this policy and request the political leadership of South Asia to accept our original request for increasing SAARC Visa Exemption Sticker from 100 to 500 for each member country for the period of one year.

Although the visa regime in Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan was flexible, bigger countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh have restricted visa policies, which is against the spirit of SAFTA.

Commenting on the strengthening linkage between SAARC CCI and the SAARC Secretariat, he said: "Linkage between SAARC CCI with its parent organization i.e. SAARC is crucial for achieving objectives in mutually interested areas. Though we enjoy the status of apex organization and have amicable relations, we need to consolidate our role as one of the most valuable contributor towards economic cooperation. The presence of the Secretary General of SAARC in our two events within two weeks is a reflection of our mutual relationship. To further strengthen our relationship, we shall request SAARC Secretariat to allocate some space to establish SAARC Chamber’s liaison office in SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu."

Currently, President SAARC CCI as a representative of the Private Sector of the region is invited to make presentation on Economic Cooperation Committee of SAARC organized at level of SAARC Commerce Secretaries. We shall try to seek representation in all SAARC working group to voice the concerns of the Private Sector. We shall make earnest efforts to ensure representation of SAARC CCI at SAARC Ministerial as well as Summit level, which will be more practical approach to safeguard the interest of the business community in South Asia.

On the need for business promotion model to enhance economic cooperation, he said that the Chamber intends to present business promotion model based on trade creation and trade diversion by encouraging B-2-B meetings, holding fairs and exhibition, exchange of business information, match-making in mutually interested areas. It will help creating economic complementarities and foster greater economic cooperation

He said that there was enormous potential in the region of SAARCC has been identified and quantified, which however, has not been tapped adequately. Joint Ventures and Investment in the mutually interested areas can give due success to SAFTA. In this respect, the Councils reconstituted and formed under the umbrella of SAAR CCI will be activated and appropriate measures will be suggested to broaden the scope of cooperation, he said.

India has regained the Chair of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry after 12 years. The New Committee of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry comprises: Vikramjit Singh Sahney - Chairman- (India) and Vice Presidents- Kosala Wickremanayake ( Sri Lanka), Pradeep Kumar Sheshtra ( Nepal), Ifthikar Ali Malik (Pakistan), Thinley Paled Dorji ( Bhutan) Jas Uddin ( Bangladesh) and Ahmed Mukthaba ( Maldives).

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