Intra-region trade in SAARC bloc is one of the lowest
FCCISL stance more towards open economy; says Sri Lankan economy has always tried to protect one side
Service sector opening is must; however doesn’t mean floodgates should be opened
By Shehana Dain
Aiming to bolster inter regional trade, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) successfully concluded its second training session on non-tariff measures and non-tariff barriers environment in SAARC countries on Tuesday (1).
The session was held in partnership with SAARC Trade Promotion Network (SAARC TPN) Kathmandu, National Institute for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (ni-msme) and sponsored by GIZ (GmbH).
Addressing the gathering SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Executive Committee Member Zubair Malik said that intra region sales within the SAARC region remains lowest compared to other parts in the world.
Noting that the European Union amounts to average trade penetration of 60% and ASEAN records trade of 25% he stressed that the SAARC region annually records only 6% of active trade. “It’s one of the lowest performing trading blocks in the world,” he asserted. Also present at the press briefing was FCCISL Secretary General Ajith D. Perera, who said that trade within the SAARC region was of importance as Sri Lanka was at a stage of getting into such new agreements.
“Since the first day we signed a FTA with India and then followed by Pakistan we have made progress, yet I doubt if we tapped the real potential due to many issues prevailing in the region. Therefore I think as an apex body it’s our responsibility to educate the stakeholders,” he asserted.
Commenting on the FCCISL’s stance on the ETCA agreementm Perera opined that the first draft which was said to be the final draft was received by the organisation last week and the formal viewpoint was in the making and would be ready within a week.
“As a responsible chamber we can issue a statement only after thoroughly studying it; however we will look at it with an open eye. I think we should be moderate as we have always tried to protect one side, but if we are going to export to the region we have to open up our economy as well as to some extent. How we are going to do do and at what stage are we going to do it I believe is the issue but we are for an open economy.”
Commenting on the much-speculated import and export of services, he said that the service sector opening up was a must, however he stressed that it should be done gradually. “It definitely should be done but doesn’t mean that we should open up the floodgates. When the whole world is moving towards one direction, we can’t swim against it every day.”
The training module was aimed at officials and persons directly working with NTMs and NTBs such as Government officials, researcher fellows and representatives of the private sector chambers and trade associations. There were 40 participants present during the two day program. ni-msme India Prof. Enellie Murali Darshan, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Economist Jayani Ratnayake and Galle Chamber of Commerce CEO Winodan Dias contributed as trainers to the session.
Furthermore the federation will be having a special program at the Galadari Hotel lined up between 2 to 4 March to promote gender equality in export and import procedures in the region.
“We have many women entrepreneurs and traders, however they lack the technical skills of import and export and knowhow. These sections will be widely discussed at the sessions,” SAARC Chambers of Women Entrepreneurs Council Executive Member Zubia Zubair explained.