SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Ruwan Edirisinghe has said that the state-of-the-art 10-storey new building of the chamber’s headquarters in Islamabad would be a platform for business communities of the region for coming together.
Talking to journalists prior to his departure to Sri Lanka at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Pakistan, he said that the South Asians would discuss prospects of doing business together besides inculcating the spirit of trust with its neighbours, showing solidarity and forging with them a habit of cooperation.
“We can utilize this capacious building for launching pad of optimal utilization of the region’s natural resources, building regional infrastructure, creating connectivity within the region and with the world, with energy grids, cross-border transport networks, coastal shipping, air links, roads, railways and waterways, besides flood and other natural disaster mitigation and prevention measures,” Ruwan Edirisinghe said.
He said that although SAARC region holds immense trade and investment potential, being home to 21% of world’s population, it still remains one of the least integrated regional blocs with intra-regional trade constituting only five percent of the total world trade, in comparison to 51% for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and 25% for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Ruwan Edirisinghe said that the SAARC member countries must focus on removal of non-tariff barriers and must work for enhancing business-to-business interaction to boost trade. SAARC Chamber Senior Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik said that the chamber’s building is almost completed and only finishing work is underway under the supervision of high profile internationally-accredited architects and designers.
He said that the government of Pakistan and magnates have contributed 90 per cent of the total of the cost of this project. He reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to regional cooperation under the umbrella of SAARC for promoting welfare of the South Asian people, improving their quality of life, economic progress, social uplift and cultural cooperation.
Iftikhar Malik said that the social-political dialogues among the member states were indispensable for unleashing socioeconomic potential of South Asia. He said that the government and private sector should join hands for integration of the region. If all tangible steps were taken, only furniture market in the region would reach a colossal figure of $5.4 billion by 2020.
He said that the remedial measures may push the regional trade to as high as $170 billion within two years. Zubair Ahmad Malik, Malik Sohail Hussain, Zulfiqar Ali Butt, Fatima Anwar, and a team of renowned architects and builders were also present on the occasion.