ISLAMABAD - SAARC region holds immense trade and investment potential and to actualise that potential special focus and effort is required for regional integration, Federal Commerce Secretary Younus Dagha said on Wednesday.

“SAARC member countries must focus on removal of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and work for enhancing B2B interaction to boost trade,” Dagha said while chairing a meeting with the SAARC CCI led by its president Suraj Vaidya. He expressed pleasure that establishment of SAARC CCI has provided a platform to the business communities of region for coming together and discussing the prospects of doing business together.

He highlighted that although SAARC region holds immense trade and investment potential, being home to 21 percent of world’s population, it still remains one of the least integrated regional blocs with intra-regional trade constituting only 5 percent of the total world trade, in comparison to 51 percent for NAFTA and 25 percent for ASEAN.

The Commerce secretary also mentioned that SAFTA has fallen short of expectations due to complex safeguard measures and non-tariff barriers (NTBs) among SAARC member countries. Younus stressed that special focus and effort is required for regional integration and removal of NTBs to boost regional trade and actualise the immense trade and investment potential present between the SAARC member states.

He commended the efforts of the SAARC CCI for arranging the activities like SAARC Business Conclave and an exhibition on the sidelines of every SAARC Summit. “These activities are good for bringing business community together and promoting regional trade”, he added.

On the occasion, Vaidya updated the Commerce secretary on the progress made on the permanent headquarters building project at Islamabad and expressed gratitude for releasing of funds for the building and said that it will help in strengthening the capacity-building of the institution and state-of-art building of SAARC-CCI headquarters in Pakistan will help in image building of the country.

Younus assured the delegation that Ministry of Commerce will provide full support to the SAARC CCI in achieving its objectives and hoped that SAARC CCI will continue to create business-friendly environment that helps businesses to succeed.