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Vast untapped potential in SAARC region’

Staff Reporter:

Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries President Md Jashim Uddin on Wednesday said that the SAARC has low intra-regional trade of 5 percent, which means there is still vast untapped potential.
“It is more important than ever we must recognise the significance of using our regional strengths and working together towards a common vision in a rapidly changing world,” he said.
The FBCCI president came up with the remarks while addressing at a conference on ‘Harnessing Re-gional Strengths: Importance of SAARC for South Asia’s Growth’ held on Wednesday in Dhaka, a press release said.
Jashim Uddin said the private sector holds the key to unlocking this opportunity by venturing into new markets, diversifying product portfolios, nurturing cross-border business collaborations and removing trade barriers including NTBs.
Setting up B2B mutual trade Facilitation committee of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry may be established for support, he said.
He also said that the world is witnessing significant shifts in the global economic landscape, and South Asia has a unique opportunity to position itself as a major player in the global trade and investment are-na.
“The region is also blessed with immense resources, a young and talented workforce, and a growing con-sumer market. By rethinking our regional integration strategies, we can leverage our relationship to new heights,” he said.
SAARC CCI needs to activate its working groups and strengthen its capacity to in driving business con-ducive initiatives including transport and logistics infrastructure, harmonizing trade procedures, promot-ing digital connectivity, regional supply chains and private service sector collaborations including tour-ism, he observed.
The business leader said considering the close ties between Bangladesh and India for the geographical position it has a huge potential to grow business.
“We call upon both the governments of Bangladesh and India to enable an extension of LDC treatment to Bangladesh even after its graduation in 2026 up to the enforcement BD-India CEPA,” he said.
Strengthening mutual institutional coordination of trade support agencies, harmonising mutual trade rules, complimentary infrastructure development initiatives, regional energy resources for mutual benefit are the keys to sustainable and incremental development of trade and economy of the two countries, he mentioned.
Jashim said that Bangladesh’s growth trajectory and development success as an emerging strong middle-income country under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina can offer several complimentary advantages to South Asian counterparts. The private sector is keen to explore business collaborations in manufacturing, agro-processing, industrial machinery, clean energy, ICT, and FMCG among others with value chain linkages and market prospects.
During his welcome speech, FBCCI Senior Vice President Mostofa Azad Chowdhury Babu said that with promising ties among the 8 member countries, SAARC has the potential of being one of the most dynamic and emerging regions in the world. At present the region has consistently high growth as many countries and regions of the world tackle their slow-paced economic growth.
“Cross-border investments, simplifying customs procedures and developing efficient logistics networks within SAARC can facilitate trade. We may closely work with the apex trade bodies and initiate coun-try-specific and regional programs for improving the economic cooperation and capacity building of our SME’s sector and tapping the potential of women-led SMEs for regional trade,” he added.
Former President of SAARC CCI (Sri Lanka) Ruwan Ediringehe said that SAARC nations have all 4Ms (Manpower, Market, Money and Materials) but they are yet to utilise it.
“SCCI has deliberately failed from last decade to pressurize their national chamber to enhance trade be-tween the region. We need to take necessary actions to minimise those barriers,” he said.
Vice President of SAARC CCI (from Pakistan) Anjum Nisar said, “Other regional associations like EU, ASIAN, NAFTA are doing very good and they are getting regional benefit but it’s still unfortunate for us, that we couldn’t utilize SAARC till now. We have huge potential in the area of tourism, agriculture, fisheries, industries, human development and many more. It’s time we push the govt. of each country to seize the untapped opportunity in this region”.
Deputy Head and Senior Economic Affairs Officer at UN ESCAP South and South-West Asia Office Dr Rajan Sudesh Ratna was present as the guest speaker.
The programme was moderated by Dr M Masrur Reaz, chairman of the Policy Exchange of Bangladesh. Former Cabinet Minister of the government of the Maldives Mariyam Shakeela, former President of SAARC CCI (Sri Lanka) Ruwan Ediringehe, Vice President of SAARC CCI (Nepal), and Past President of the Federation of Nepal Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FNCCI) Chandi Raj Dhakal, Vice Presi-dent of India -Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IBCCI) Sanjay Basu, EC Member of Af-ghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Industry Janaqa Siddiqui and others business leaders were present at the program.

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