Seminar on SAFTA: Opportunities and Challenges

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Event Name : Recent Events

Date : 8 February, 2006- ,

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Seminar on SAFTA: Opportunities and Challenges

Bangladesh Enterprise Institute organized a seminar titled “SAFTA: Opportunities and Challenges,” on February 8, at the BEI Conference room. Farooq Sobhan, President, BEI, presided over the seminar, which was attended by several economists and trade experts from home and abroad, who shared their views on South Asian Free Trade Agreement.

The participants of the Seminar identified the “sensitive list” including non-tariff barriers and the traditional bureaucratic mindset, as some of the major impediments to the effective implementation of the SAFTA agreement. They strongly blamed bureaucracy for discouraging trade in the region, saying that some countries have been using non-tariff barriers to discourage the prevalence of competitive exports from other countries in their domestic markets.

Prof. Rehman Sobhan, Chairman of CPD, referred to the “negative list” as nonsensical. He said that the first exercise required, is a calculation of the costs and benefits of eliminating the negative list. With regard to the issue of trade facilitation, he observed that “invisible NTBs” are in operation, citing the example of trucks, laden with goods, having to wait at the border for weeks, due to bureaucratic delays.

Taking part in the discussion Shahid Javed Burki, former World Bank Vice President for Latin America and former Finance Minister of Pakistan, observed that smaller countries could benefit from FTAs. He opined that investment and competition policy should be incorporated within the SAFTA framework, or otherwise it would be a meaningless endeavour.

Mr. Sayed Alamgir Farrouk Chowdhury, former Commerce Secretary presented a paper on “Some Thoughts on SAFTA”. Commerce Secretary Mr. M. A. Karim, Mr. James Walker, Economist, US AID Bureau of Asia/Near East, James Robertson, Economist and Former Advisor to the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, Research Director of CPD, Mr. Annisul Huq, former President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Dr. Hafiz G. A. Siddiqui, Vice Chancellor, North South University, Mr. D. N. Srivastava, Economic Minister of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, Ms. Roubina Taufiq Shah, Commerce Secretary of Pakistan High Commission, Dr. Zaidi Sattar, Senior Economist, World Bank, Dhaka and Prof. Ali Rashid of North South University also took part in the discussion.

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