November 22, 2005, United News of Bangladesh
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury yesterday deplored that the SARRC could not achieve any remarkable work for development for its members in the last two decades.

“We humbly agree that though 20 years have passed since the launching of SAARC, not much remarkable work for the development of the SAARC member countries could be accomplished,” the minister said at the inaugural session of ‘National Consultation on Regional Economic Cooperation in South Asia’ in Dhaka.

But the Commerce Minister highlighted the success of the 13th summit of the seven-member regional body held in Dhaka early this month. The summit, he said, was an opportune occasion to draw up a roadmap for regional cooperation in South Asia for the next decade.

“I firmly believed that the 13th SAARC Summit provided an important vision to find new avenue for meaningful cooperation as well as to face the common challenges of globalization and the disastrous impact of natural calamities,” Altaf said.

Organised jointly by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Unnayan Shamannay and Consumer Unity and Trust Society-Centre for International Trade, Economic and Environment (CUTS-CITEE), the function at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel was chaired by Dr. Atiur Rahman of Unnayan Shamannay.

FBCCI president Mir Nasir Hossain also spoke in the occasion.

The commerce minister said that SAARC heads of State and Government have declared the Decade of 2006-2015 as SAARC decade of Poverty Alleviation. “I strongly feel that we need to work collectively for successful implementation of this decision,” he said.

Altaf Hossain expressed that hope that under the umbrella of SAARC all member countries could reap the benefits equitably by implementing the mutually beneficial action plans. Later, the Commerce Minister told reporters that apart from revenue loss compensation the SAARC leaders had reached a consensus on the SAFTA.

Speaking on the occasion, Atiur Rahman said despite many uncertainties, there was no doubt that high hopes have been raised by the leaders of South Asia with regard to implementation of the promises they had been making for the last two decades.

“The realisation by the South Asian Leaders that the ‘business as usual’ will not work and that SAARC will have to rise up to the expectations of the one and a half billion people, 40 per cent of whom are, in fact, poor indeed commendable,” he said.

He, however, said that the weak secretariat of SAARC has not been able to exploit the meetings of the South Asian leaders gainfully. “This has been reflected in the sad reality of the very precarious living conditions of at least 600 million poor living in South Asia,” he said, adding South Asia is still the hot spot of poverty and hence terrorism.

FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain said that it was now the duty both at government and business level to devise appropriate tools that would bring about the desired economic development through trade and investment. He said called for immediate negotiation on SAFTA for its timely launching.

In this context the FBCCI leader referred to outstanding issues of Rules of Origin (RoO), trade facilitation measurers, mechanisms including trade promotion measurers for compensation of revenue loses, harmonisation of standards and customs regulations, finalisation of sensitive list and technical assistance for capacity building.