Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Abdul Rauf Alam has said that free trade is the only key to reduce poverty in South Asia without which social unrest and militancy cannot be controlled. He said increased regional cooperation and trade liberalisation were necessary for addressing problems like poverty and unemployment through development.
FPCCI President Abdul Rauf Alam said this while speaking to a reception hosted in the honour of Saarc Chamber of Commerce President Suraj Vaidya. Saarc Chamber VP Iftikhar Ali Malik, incumbent and former officials of Saarc Chamber, FPCCI, ICCI, RCCI, ambassadors and government officials were also present on the occasion.
Rauf Alam said: “We should resolve all controversial issues through negotiations as soon as possible otherwise all efforts to ensure development and bring people closer will be an exercise in futility.”
“How goods can move freely in a least integrated region where people are not allowed to move freely,” he wondered. “We can achieve the overall goals of rapid trade integration, economic growth, and poverty reduction by removing visa restrictions in the first place which will have a positive impact on 1.5 billion lives,” he said.
Pakistan and India were two major powers in South Asia which could become instruments for trade creation, stimulate competition, attract capital inflows, and encourage transfer of technology, he noted.
The FPCCI president said that liberalisation of trade iwasexpected to open new avenues for economic cooperation in energy supply, hydel electric generation and distribution, shipping, banking, insurance, and overland transport etc. “Presently cost of doing business among Saarc nations is extremely expensive which must be brought down while we should also have a Saarc industrials parks and Saarc CEOs forum.”
Speaking on the occasion, Saarc Chamber President Suraj Vaidya, VP Iftikhar Ali Malik and others said that Saarc was dormant since decades and it had yet to achieve shared goal of reduction in poverty which was the most important and common problem of the member states.
They asked the policymakers to learn lessons from integration of other blocks like EU and ASEAN that are more focused on trade and less on politics.
“It has failed to improve the lives of the nearly 1.5 billion South Asians since it was set up in 1985 to boost trade and cooperation but the business community is hopeful and will continue to push for development through improved relations between different nations sharing cultural, religious, political and socioeconomic values,” they observed.