Intra-Saarc trade can be increased to $100 billion: PBIF

KARACHI: Trade between Saarc nations could be increased to $100 billion annually from the current dismal $28 billion which will unleash new era of peace and prosperity, a business leader said Tuesday.

“Twenty five percent trade of the Southeast Asian nations is within ASEAN region while almost 95 percent trade of Saarc nations is with Europe and North America,” said Pakistan Businessmen and Intellectuals Forum (PBIF) President Mian Zahid Hussain.

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, he said.

He said that once the Sub-Continent was richest place of earth because a trader in Kabul was able to transport his goods to any place through GT Road while the Silk Road helped people of the region to prosper in the unprecedented way.

But now, the region with 45 percent youth among 1.7 billion population is one of the most underdeveloped areas which can become rich through increased trade, said PBIF President. He said that trade within Saarc countries costs 85 percent more than the trade between ASEAN nations which can be increased 250 percent 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.

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