Business Visas, Infrastructure Can Boost SAARC Trade

 CII Welcomes PM’s Thrust on SAARC Regional Integration

Prime Minister Modi’s suggestions at the SAARC Summit today for a Business Traveler Card, Special Purpose Facility for financing regional infrastructure, and cross-border industrial corridors are innovative and very pertinent, said the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in a press release on the SAARC Summit being held in Kathmandu.

“CII strongly welcomes PM’s suggestion for a 3-5 year business traveler card for SAARC nationals and the Special Purpose Facility for regional connectivity infrastructure, which would impart impetus to the dream of shared prosperity” said Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII.

“CII has long stressed the need for transport connectivity and cross-border trade facilitation as imperative for enhancing SAARC economic integration. We hope that PM’s call for simpler procedures, common standards, and better facilities would contribute to faster action towards trade and investment linkages on the SAARC platform,” he added.

As PM Modi said, less than 5% of the region’s global trade is intraregional, and it costs more to travel within the region than to Bangkok or Singapore.  In his speech, the PM has stressed the need for neighboring countries to invite investments from India to produce for the Indian markets. “Cross-border investments into other SAARC countries to export to India would help balance the trade surplus with the SAARC member economies, which is presently a concern,” stated Mr Banerjee.

However, CII expressed disappointment that several trade facilitation agreements which were on the table could not be signed. The SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic would lead to seamless movement of cargo, personal vehicles and passengers across land borders. The SAARC Regional Railways Agreement too would harness the economic potential of the region, while the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity) could ensure integrated operation of the regional power grid.

CII urges SAARC leaders to finalise the agreements that would promote trade facilitation and hopes that these would be signed at the earliest. CII feels that these proposed agreements will greatly help in facilitating the flow of trade and reduce the cost of doing business across the South Asian region. Intra-regional trade within SAARC can drive poverty reduction and improve development indicators.

India’s exports to South Asian countries stood at 17,503.84 million US$ in 2013-14 (5.56% of India’s total exports). India’s imports from South Asian countries stood at 2,472.98 million US$ in 2013-14 (0.54% of India’s total imports).

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