Seeking to put on fast track the economic integration of the region, India on Thursday urged other South Asian countries to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to help boost trade and investments.
“A range of tariff and non-tariff barriers, that have been erected in our region in the early years of our respective independence prevented businesses from developing value in the neighbourhood,'' Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said while speaking at the South Asia Forum, organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
He said the South Asia region was geographically and culturally designed for the widest possible cooperation but in reality it was the least integrated region in the world.
Cost of trading
Referring to a World Bank report, Mr. Ahluwalia said intra-regional trade in South Asia was less than 2 per cent of GDP, as compared to over 20 per cent in East Asia.
“Cost of trading across borders in South Asia is one of the highest in the world,'' he added.
He said all indices of intra-regional economic cooperation in South Asia were significantly lower than in other regions, leading to low trade and investment flows.
He also underlined the need for investing in capacity building of the young people in the region through education so as to provide them with productive jobs.