A high-level delegation comprising private sector representatives left for Thimpu (Bhutan) on Saturday to represent Pakistan in the forthcoming 70th executive committee meeting of the Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Talking to media prior to departure, leader of the delegation and Saarc Chamber Vice President Iftikhar Ali Malik said distinctive features of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would be highlighted during the deliberations apart from other issues confronting the region.
He said CPEC would act as a trading hub between South Asia, Middle East and Europe, thereby enhancing trade potential of the entire region.
“CPEC is a geo-economic project which will benefit the entire region both directly and indirectly,” he said, adding the economic corridor would promote regional cooperation in South Asia, driven by trade and energy, through the building of ports, pipelines, road and rail infrastructure.
Answering a question, Malik said goods from landlocked Bhutan and Nepal could not access Pakistan markets via land route through India.
“These countries cannot send their goods through Pakistan to Central Asia and China. Similarly, Bangladesh cannot access the shorter land route through India to Pakistan and onward to China or West Asia, North Africa and Gulf states,” he said, adding in contrast goods from island nations – the Maldives and Sri Lanka – could reach China through Gwadar.
Bhutan and Nepal can directly connect with China while Bangladesh lies on the southwestern route of the Silk Road linking it with Kinmin in Yunan province of China.
Shaharyar Ali Malik, deputy leader of the delegation, said global trade statistics revealed that while the volume of trade between Saarc states and the rest of the world was increasing, intra-regional trade remained far below its true potential.
‘CPEC to integrate regional economies’
“We should, therefore, evolve a mechanism to incentivise formal trade among Saarc member states,” Malik said, while emphasising the need for a gradual reduction and eventual elimination of tariffs, duties and non-tariff barriers among Saarc members.