‘Intra-SAARC trade can be increased to $100 billion’
ISLAMABAD – Former provincial minister Mian Zahid Hussain said on Tuesday that trade between SAARC nations could be increased to one hundred billion dollars annually from the current dismal $28 billion which will unleash new era of peace and prosperity.
25 per cent trade of the Southeast Asian nations is within ASEAN region while almost 95 per cent trade of SAARC nations is with Europe and North America, he said. SAARC countries are not encouraging trade and investment within region while preferring trade through third countries which has made sub-continent home to the majority of the poor in the world, said Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum (PBIF).
He said that once the sub-continent was richest place of earth because a trader in Kabul was able to transport his good to any place through GT Road while the Silk Road helped people of the region prosper in the unprecedented way But now, the region with 45 per cent youth among 1.7 billion population is one of the most underdeveloped areas which can become rich through increased trade, said PBIF President Zahid.
He said that trade within SAARC countries costs 85 per cent more than the trade between ASEAN nations which can be increased 250 per cent immediately if Safta is revisited which is full of sensitive lists. Indian companies have invested $75 billion in other countries but its share in SAARC is negligible while the attitude of other countries is not different.
Zahid said that easing trade and visa restrictions, encouraging people-to-people contacts and promoting tourism, health and education can bring countries together which can result in a change.