November 22, 2005, Star Business
Dhaka, Bangladesh

A two-day national consultation on regional economic cooperation in South Asia began yesterday in Dhaka. The consultation was organised to engage stakeholders’ participation in regional trade initiatives and promote policy response.

Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury formally inaugurated the consultation, jointly organised by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), NGOs Unnayan Shammannay, CUTS International and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel.

Inaugurating the consultation, the commerce minister said, “I hope under the umbrella of Saarc all member countries can reap benefits from implementation of mutually beneficial action plans.”

Replaying to a query, the minister said South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) should be implemented from January 1, 2006. However, he said, if the contentious issues are not resolved by December this year, the Committee of Experts may be given another three months to resolve the issues.

Chairman of Unnayan Samunnay Atiur Rahman said without a serious political will it is not possible to resolve the barriers in implementing SAFTA.

He also urged the SAARC member countries to allow South Korea to be an observer in the SAARC to expedite the regional trade.

Speaking at the function, FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain said South Asian countries should take measures for removing administrative and regulatory constraints to boost investment between themselves.

FBCCI Second Vice-president Dewan Sultan Ahmed and Policy Analyst of CUTS Pranav Kuman also spoke at the function.