South Asian nations must learn from NAFTA, ASEAN: Anand Sharma

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 29, 2013 15:10 hrs

Agra Jan 29 (IANS) South Asian countries need to learn from the best practices of other regional blocs such as NAFTA and ASEAN that have taken intra-regional trade to greater heights, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said here Tuesday.

NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement and ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

He said regional cooperation was a reality in all parts of the world and efforts should be made to remove all bottlenecks.

Tangible results might come out from the close cooperation among SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nations, he said at a session at the 19th CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) Partnership Summit.

He said building trust was critical for enduring peace and development of the region. Therefore, working together was not an option but was imperative.

Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady, commerce minister of Afghanistan, said India was the engine of growth in South Asia and added that investor-friendly policies, tax holidays, low land prices and natural resources, Afghanistan offered excellent opportunity for foreign investors.

Ghulam Muhammed Quader, the commerce minister of Bangladesh, said regional cooperation might help his nation become a middle-income country by 2021.

The Joint Working Group on trade and customs between India and Bangladesh had resulted in lowering of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, he said.

Anil Kumar Jha, the industry minister of Nepal, said they were working towards the common goal of South Asia Economic Union.

Countries within the region needed to work and think in the direction of creating a truly economic bloc by removing all barriers, he said.

Adi Godrej, the CII president and Godrej Group chairman, said integration would help facilitate trade.

Amin Hashwani, director of the Hashwani Group of Companies from Pakistan, elaborated on the role of civil society in cementing regional partnership.

Suraj Vaidya, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said private sector had provided leadership in building the partnership and what was now required was robust infrastructure.

The CII and Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries also signed an agreement to encourage trade and investment.

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