Members of the SAARC region should look towards improving intra-regional trade as a pathway towards stronger political union, according to Minister for External Affairs, Prof. G.L. Peiris.
“SAARC is not just about political unity but economic unity as well. Taking the example of Europe, trade brought those countries towards political and monetary union. They started with trade and once the benefits of it were felt, they proceeded to agree on seemingly intractable issues.”
“I’m not saying that monetary union is necessary or even desirable for SAARC, but we must learn from their example, because trade is a potent instrument. If we find even partial solutions to improving trade, we will all benefit.” Prof Peiris said.
In that context, Prof Peiris, who made these observations during a seminar on Trade Facilitation in South Asia, organized by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urged business representatives to lobby their respective governments to remove barriers to intra-regional trade.
Prof Peiris stated that non tariff barriers to trade in particular should be addressed as soon as possible.
“The free movement of business people within the region has been an issue which many have raised with me. Business people must have freedom of movement within SAARC, and they must be given visas for extended periods when national security is not at stake.” Prof Peiris said.
He further stated that business people themselves need to seek out greater business synergies within the region, such as the joint promotion of tourist packages offering trips to multiple tourist destinations within the SAARC region.
“The people of South Asia stand to benefit from such initiatives. So, I urge you to give these ideas some thought and collective action. You are the only ones who can do it, and the government of Sri Lanka will stand with you and provide every support and encouragement in this endeavor,” Prof Peiris concluded.