India pushes for more intra-SAARC tradeSeptember 16th, 2010 - 11:05 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) Pushing for economic integration in South Asia, India Thursday called for greater intra-regional trade and investment flows on the lines of East and Southeast Asia and urged SAARC countries to ratify a key pact on trade and services.
“There is considerably greater potential to increase the share of intra-regional trade and investment flows as has been witnessed in East and Southeast Asia,” External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said at an international seminar here held to mark 25 years of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
“It is time that the South Asian region takes adequate cognisance of the economies of the neighbourhood just as different regions across the world have adopted the strategy of regional economic integration to exploit the synergies for mutual benefit in a balanced and equitable manner,” Krishna said.
Alluding to the signing of the SAARC Agreement on Trade and Services earlier this year, Krishna said India has very recently ratified this agreement and hoped that other member states would ratify the pact at the earliest.
Referring to the implementation of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in 2006, Krishna underlined that intra-regional trade in South Asia has doubled over the past 5 years.
“While estimates of intra-SAARC trade vary, it is fair to assume that this figure touched close to $ 550 million in 2009, increasing from just $ 10 million in 2006 when SAFTA came into force,” he said.
Pushing for greater connectivity and economic integration in the region, Krishna said: “We need to look to an inter-related South Asian future where trade and cross-border links flourish and bring prosperity to all our people.”
Krishna expressed happiness with the setting up of the $300 million South Asian University (SAU) in Delhi, a key SAARC project, which began its maiden academic session on Aug 26 with two initial courses and 50 students from all across the region.
“I am optimistic that the university, once fully operational, will provide world class education opportunities to the youth of South Asia,” he said.
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