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ECOTA completion will give boost to inter-regional trade; must open banking channels with Iran

Interview with Mr Abdul Basit – President, Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI)

Profile

Mr Abdul Basit graduated from Forman Christian College Lahore. He is the founder Chairman of Big Bird Group of Companies which comprises Big Bird Poultry Breeders (Pvt) Limited, Grandparent Poultry (Pvt.) Limited, Big Bird Foods (Pvt) Ltd, Big Feed (Pvt) Ltd, Pak Tek Associates, Green Nature Farms and APOTHEKE Technologies. Other than earning a respectable name in corporate sector, he has been actively involved in trade politics. He served as Senior Vice President of Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) in 2005-06. He has also been elected as the member of the Executive Committee of LCCI many times. Presently, he is serving as the President LCCI. He has also served as Chairman of the Pakistan Poultry Association Punjab Zone and Central Chairman of Pakistan Poultry Association. He has also headed Punjab Board of Investment & Trade (PBIT).

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON THE 13TH SUMMIT OF THE ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (ECO)?

ABDUL BASIT: The successful holding of the summit is a manifestation of the desire and commitment of the member states to transform the region into a vibrant regional block.

PAGE: DO YOU THINK A 13TH SUMMIT OF THE ECONOMIC COOPERATION ORGANIZATION (ECO) WOULD HELP IN DOUBLING INTRA-REGIONAL TRADE IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS?

ABDUL BASIT: Inter-regional trade among the ECO member states is 8 percent of their cumulative external trade. The target set in this summit is to increase this inter-regional trade to 20%. Activating the ECO trade agreement (ECOTA) is a very important step in this regard for the liberalization of trade among the ECO members. Identification and Elimination of physical and non-physical trade barriers would also be very important to double this inter-regional trade in next 3 to 5 years.

PAGE: THE SUMMIT ADOPTED ISLAMABAD DECLARATION AND VISION 2025. THE DECLARATION CALLS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE, FACILITATION OF TRADE AND INVESTMENT, PROMOTION OF CONNECTIVITY WITH OTHER REGIONS, EFFECTIVE USE OF ENERGY RESOURCES AND UNDERTAKING MEASURES FOR MAKING THE ECO EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT. VISION 2025 UNDERSCORES PROMOTION OF COOPERATION AMONG MEMBER STATES. YOUR VIEWS:

ABDUL BASIT: Islamabad Declaration and Vision 2025 is a landmark declaration. It calls for building and promoting sea, land and air transport linkages in addition to cyberspace for giving additional impetus to inter-regional trade. Special emphasis has given to improving the access to affordable energy and establishment of an ECO regional electricity market. I believe this connectivity in transport and energy infrastructure will enhance development and prosperity in the region.

PAGE: THE SUMMIT CRITICIZED TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS AND ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON IT?

ABDUL BASIT: We fully support the views of ECO summit and condemn the travel restrictions and sanctions against Iran. The ECO member countries should quickly develop the banking channels with Iran for resumption and enhancement of trade. We have been told by the Governor State Bank of Pakistan that it is in final stages of signing an agreement with Iran for the opening of formal bank channels.

PAGE:FACTORS RESTRICTING TRADE IN THE REGION INCLUDE DIFFERENCES IN ECONOMIC SYSTEMS, LOGISTIC CONSTRAINTS DUE TO INADEQUATE TRANSPORT LINKAGES AND PROBLEMS WITH BANKING TRANSACTIONS. THE ECOTA WAS SIGNED IN JULY 2003 BUT HAS NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED AS YET BECAUSE HALF OF THE MEMBERS ARE STILL TO ACCEDE TO IT. THE AGREEMENT IS AIMED AT REMOVING TRADE BARRIERS FOR INTRA-REGIONAL TRADE. YOUR VIEWS:

ABDUL BASIT: We fully endorse the implementation of ECOTA. Lack of implementation on ECOTA is the main reason for the stagnation in the growth of inter-regional trade. The agreement is quite pivotal as it will remove the trade barriers hampering the inter-regional trade. LCCI recommends that the ECO countries should form a special committee comprising one member from each country for swift implementation of ECOTA.

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