Promoting trade and investment: SAARC countries urged to overcome hindrances for progress

LAHORE: The 12th SAARC Trade Fair and 9th WEXNET exhibition, orgainsed by the Trade and Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), commenced on Friday at the Expo Centre.

The three-day event, which aims to provide an opportunity for the exhibitors to promote their businesses and enhance their network, was inaugurated by Federal Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir and SAARC Secretariat General Secretary Arjun B Thapa, while TDAP Chief Executive SM Muneer and TDAP Secretary Rabiya Javeri Agha were also present on the occasion. This is the third SAARC trade exhibition hosted by Pakistan, and first by Lahore.

On the occasion, the commerce minister said the leadership of Pakistan is committed towards the development of trade, adding that the fair offers a unique platform for more than 45 exhibitors from SAARC member countries to showcase their products and promote their culture.

The only way to progress is through mutual cooperation, Dastgir said, adding that all the SAARC member countries must back each other and overlook minor hindrances in the way of progress.

To a question, he said in the world, trade partnership is being promoted and trading blocs are being made, therefore, we also have to improve trade in the region, adding, “We are hopeful of neighbouring country (India) to review its attitude for the cause of regional peace and prosperity.”

Khurram Dastgir said the government, through WEXNET, has also encouraged the women entrepreneurs by providing them opportunity to display the handiwork as well as share their trade experiences with other women entrepreneurs of the region.

SAARC Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa on the occasion thanked the government of Pakistan, TDAP and the chambers of commerce and industry for holding these exhibitions for which he had been looking for the last three years.

Thapa said that at the previous SAARC Trade Fair held in Bangladesh in 2012, the SAARC had appreciated Pakistan for coming up with fruitful idea of holding trade fairs.

He said it is alarming that SAARC trade volume is mere 5% of the total trade of the world, asserting that the SAARC countries, in a meeting held in 2014, had resolved for taking effective measures for expansion in the regional trade volume.

Exhibitors from the SAARC member states arranged various stalls and expressed their happiness on coming to Pakistan, and appreciated the huge turnover of customers on the occasion.

WEXNET (Network for Women Exporters), which is the largest exhibition of Pakistan for women entrepreneurs, aims to provide women with an opportunity to not only exhibit their products but also to get awareness on the business activities, said TDAP Chief Executive SM Muneer. “Last year’s exhibition showcased over 300 businesses and attracted more than 2,500 visitors. This year, WEXNET received 350 applications from entrepreneurs from more than 30 cities. Utilising the talents of women is necessary for the country to compete with the world,” he added.

While talking to Daily Times, TDAP Secretary Rabiya Javeri Agha said that women comprise 51% of the total population of the country, but unfortunately, most of them are forcefully subjected to their homes only. “These exhibitions show the commitment of TDAP towards empowering women at grassroots level.”

Women work extremely hard in the rural areas but are not recognised for their services, she said, adding that TDAP provides economic accessibility to woman and aims to empower them by giving them more exposure.

“We are really happy that businesses across the SAARC countries have come here to showcase their products, and the fact that WEXNET is also being held in conjunction with the trade fair, even makes it bigger and better,” she said. “TDAP has also established helpdesks for Customs, National Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) of Pakistan, Tourism Development Corporation of Punjab (TDCP) and Board of Investment (BOI) to facilitate the exhibitors and for dissemination of information.”

The authority, she said, has also arranged a few business-to-business (B2B) meetings for the exhibitors of the SAARC countries with the business community in coordination with local trade bodies to create synergies.

She said gender equality and women empowerment are critical development objectives of TDAP, adding that when women earn, societies as a whole benefit through increased investment in childcare and schooling. “Working women not only reduce poverty in the society but also provide inspiration to other women and to the next generation of girls, both in homes and their communities,” she added.

Women entrepreneurs from far-flung areas of the country set up a variety of stalls on the occasion and thanked TDAP for the opportunity.

The trade exhibition will continue until December 6.

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