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Asia Foundation Conducts South Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Workshop

Dhaka, April 7, 2016 — DSC_9401

This week, The Asia Foundation, the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI), and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held a 2-day Public-Private Dialogue on “Promoting Trade in Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN).” Over 30 entrepreneurs, government officials, researchers, and chamber leaders gathered in Dhaka to discuss research findings from a keynote paper, develop concrete recommendations, and call for South Asian nations to adopt symmetrical policy regimes and product standards that would promote regional economic integration.

The dialogue featured opening remarks from the Chairman of MCCI’s Industry Sub-Committee, Tabith M. Awal, and the Foundation’s Country Representative in Bangladesh Hasan Mazumdar. Other panelists included representatives from MCCI, USAID, CUTS International, The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), and more.

In a constructive discussion, participants highlighted the need to accelerate overall development in South Asia through regional connectivity via rail, road and waterways, power and energy, tourism and people-to-people connectivity. Lakshmanan Savithri, director of the Kathmandu-based SAARC Secretariat, also stressed the urgency of implementing the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Road Connectivity Project and BBIN project for better connectivity in the region.

Md. Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh, said in order to facilitate trade, the infrastructure of the countries with common borders need coordinated and synchronized developments, including means of transportation as well as facilities for smooth passage of goods across the border. “If land port facilities at a particular point are developed on one side and underdeveloped on the other side, trade would not be benefited,” he said. In Hossain’s view, there are some intangible challenges like policy consistency and confidence building, as frequent changes in policy create uncertainties and erode confidence in the system.

Panelists also noted that it is not the high tariff rates but the non-tariff barriers (NTBs) that are the main reasons behind limited intra-regional trade in South Asia. Finally, speakers identified a number of challenges facing implementation of SAARC quality standards.

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our programs address critical issues affecting Asia in the 21st century—governance and law, economic development, women’s empowerment, environment, and regional cooperation.

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Related locations: Bangladesh
Related topics: BBIN

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