ISLAMABAD - There is a huge scope for boosting intra-regional trade in South Asia, and the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry is chalking out a plan to set up SAARC Industrial Park to promote investment and trade in SAARC countries, observed SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) President Suraj Vaidya on Saturday.

He said the proposal had already been discussed with the president of Afghanistan and his team, Pakistan’s federal minister for commerce and other relevant high government officials, while other SAARC member countries would also be consulted for materialising the plan.

Addressing business community at the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), he said China achieved phenomenal economic growth by setting up industrial parks, and SAARC Industrial Park would be an export-oriented venture to give a push to investment and trade among SAARC countries.

Suraj said his key focus would be on increasing investment in the SAARC region, because despite the fact that SAARC came into being 30 years ago, this region was still least integrated.

He said SAARC countries would have to decide whether they wanted to lead or to be led by others. “The time has come for the SAARC countries to take a leap towards economic integration and fast growth,” he underscored. He stressed that private sector should play a leading role in promoting intraregional trade, and assured that SAARC CCI would work for the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers so that regional trade could be improved.

Suraj further said that strength of South Asia lay in its huge youth population, and the SAARC CCI was drawing up a plan to provide a forum, ‘Angel Investors South Asia’ (AISA) to entrepreneurial-minded youth to invest in early stage businesses.

SAARC CCI president added the chamber would leverage its network resources to identify potential innovative entrepreneurs in the region, and AISA will provide the capital ranging from 2.5 million to 50 million to such entrepreneurs so that they could convert their business ideas into successful commercial ventures.

“The plan is to create 200 commercial ventures annually,” he explained.

In his welcome address, ICCI President Atif Ikram Sheikh said that South Asia was home to one fifth of world’s population, but despite huge potential for growth, countries of the region had kept their people deprived of the benefits of regional economic integration.

He asked the SAARC CCI to lead the efforts aimed at promoting interconnectivity among private sectors of the SAARC countries and removing all non-tariff barriers to improve intraregional trade.

FPCCI former presidents Zubair Ahmed Malik and Mian Muhammad Idrees as well as FPCCI Vice President Zafar Bakhtawari and others also spoke on the occasion.

They called for strong economic integration in the region so that it could unleash its economic potential for the benefit of its huge population.