LAHORE - The speakers at a seminar declared trade as the best option to build confidence and improve relations between Pakistan and India, besides creating new opportunities for poverty alleviation in both the countries. The seminar was organized by the Centre for Peace and Democracy in collaboration with the LCCI here on Friday. Among others the key speakers included former economic advisor Dr Salman Shah, CPD Director M Shoiab Adil, LCCI SVP Sheikh Muhmmad Arshad, Convener of LCCI Pak-India Trade Promotion Committee Aftab Vohra, noted economist Dr Qais Aslam and PIAF Chairman Sohail Lashari and Raja Wilayat. The speakers said that Pakistan having annual import bill of around $12 billion is importing goods worth around $600 million or around 2 percent only from the SAARC member countries. In a consensus opinion the economists as well as the business leaders said that Pakistan and India should work for ensuring uninterrupted bilateral trade which will help strengthen their economies and promote regional integration in South Asia. Dr Salman Shah said that both the countries should focus on promoting trade and economic relations to create new hopes and a better future for their people. Presently the regional trade of South Asia is just 2 percent while Pak-India trade is not more than 0.5 percent of our GDP, which should be enhanced to a high level in the interest of the public of all the countries in the region, said the former advisor. On the other hand, EU and Asian countries are presently trading more than 22 percent of their GDP, he added. He said that Pak-India official trade is of $2 billion out of which $0.6 billion is export while $1.4 billion is import. He brushed aside a notion that free trade with India would eliminate our industry, saying it would rather be beneficial for both the countries and their people. He said negotiations should be preferred over confrontation to solve all problems between the two countries. LCCI SVP Sheikh Arshad said India should fully reciprocate all efforts of Pakistan to improve relations as Pakistan could not promote trade unilaterally. He said the national interest should be kept supreme in relations with other countries. He said that Pakistan exported goods valued $ 268.33 million and imported $ 1.03 billion in 2009-10, whereas, Pakistan suffers a trade deficit with India and trade is in Indian favour. He drew the attention of India towards delays in the issuance of business visas to the businessmen and requested to simplify the visa procedures. Aftab Vohra said that the country imports Indian goods of up to $3 billion through informal trade via Dubai and Singapore and if this trade is allowed from India directly in a legal way the cost of trade will go down enormously, besides improving the government revenue. He said that by removing non-tariff barriers from her side India could pave the way for Pakistan to enhance its trade and to narrow down the trade deficit. He said the unauthorized trade could be converted to legal business through frequent interaction between both the countries chambers and trade associations, which will stop smuggling entirely and lower the const significantly. He observed that Pakistan imports some Indian items through informal trade via Dubai and Singapore which is estimated around $ 2-3 billion per year, and this trade could obviously be undertaken bilaterally at significant lower cost. Dr Qais Aslam said if the South Asian states manage to promote their trade under SAARC this would mean that a huge market of around 1.3 billion people, he added. Besides the short distance there would be lesser freight cost which will ensure quick deliveries and short inventories. The member states will have no language barrier and would be abreast with each others trade practices and fashion needs. All this will result in complementing each others economy. However, all this is possible if India and Pakistan resolve their political disputes through dialogue or any other means. He said that promotion of trade is the only way to minimize political tensions in the region. The two neighboring countries should not mix trade with politics and the business community should be allowed to carry on with their trade without hurdles. PIAF Chairman Sohail Lashari said that we believe to enhance bilateral trade between two countries, with regular exchange of trade delegations and interaction between the leading trade associations with active participation in exhibitions of two countries. Bilateral trade has a potential to increase up to $ 5 billion. He said that trade between India and Pakistan is less than 0.5 percent against their total trade and this should be increased. If the South Asian states manage to promote their trade under SAARC this would mean that a huge market of around 1.3 billion people only next to China could be created. The member states will have a number of advantages based on specific factors of extreme convenience, he added.