INTERVIEW WITH SAARC CCI VP

SOUTH ASIA IS BECOMING THE HUB OF INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ACTIVITY.

KANWAL SALEEM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Jan 31 - Feb 6, 20
11

Mr. Iftikhar Ali Malik is veteran businessperson. He is Chief Executive of Guard Group of Industries. He is considered as one of the county's top businesspersons. He has also served as FPCCI President. He is highly regarded in business community and poor strata of society due to his social welfare activities.

Mr. Iftikhar Ali Malik is currently the Vice President of SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCI).

In an interview, he said, "The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) provides a platform for the people of South Asia to work together in a spirit of friendship, trust and understanding. It aims to accelerate the process of economic and social development in member countries."

Giving background of SAARC Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Malik said: "It was the prospect of being left behind in the global economic arena that initially brought the representatives of national federations of chambers of commerce and industry of the SAARC countries together at the second meeting of chambers of commerce & industry of the developing countries (G-77) in New Delhi in December 1988.

A memorandum of understanding was signed among these representatives expressing their intention and desire to establish the chamber of commerce and industry of SAARC countries for the promotion of trade and industry in the SAARC region and to develop and achieve common objectives in these areas. The memorandum of understanding was the precursor to the current SAARC chamber of commerce and industry."

He said in the wake of the desire for a SAARC chamber of commerce and industry, the SAARC Secretariat commissioned a study on trade, manufactures and services in 1988. The study completed in 1991 strongly supported establishment of a SAARC chamber of commerce and industry to bring about improvement in the business environment, disseminate information about potential tradable goods, and identify joint ventures in the SAARC region. Pursuant to the directive of the SAARC Secretariat, SAARC chamber of commerce & industry, assisted by the national federations, submitted its draft constitution to the SAARC Secretariat and received its approval in December 1992. This signified the official recognition of the SAARC-CCI by all the national governments of SAARC as the apex body of all the national federations of chambers of commerce and industry of SAARC countries namely:

* Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ACCI)
* Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FBCCI)
* Bhutan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCI)
* Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI)
* Maldives National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MNCCI)
* Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FNCCI)
* Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI)
* Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL)

Mr. Malik said all national chambers/ federations of the respective member countries serve as focal points to facilitate the SAARC CCI Secretariat in Islamabad. He said the president of the SAARC CCI is now a permanent invitee to the committee on economic cooperation (CEC) of SAARC to give a presentation of the private sector's viewpoints to the commerce secretaries of the seven nations of SAARC.

According to him, the constitution of SAARC CCI designates Pakistan as the permanent secretariat of SAARC with a Secretary General to be the Chief Executive Officer of the Secretariat. Soon after the formation of SAARC CCI, headquarters was set up in the premises of FPCCI in Karachi and later on in December 1997 was shifted to Islamabad.

The presidency of SAARC-CCI rotates amongst the member countries for a two-year term.

Highlighting the objectives of the SAARC CCI, Malik said this body aims at encouraging trade, service, industry, small & medium enterprise, agriculture, intra-regional through creating strong business linkages amongst the entrepreneurs of the region of South Asia apart from making recommendations to safeguard the economic and business interests of the SAARC, serving as a consultative body of the private sector of the region to provide input/feedback on regional economic issues, encouraging member countries to accord preferential terms of trade to each other and finally strive towards the gradual realization of the SAARC economic and monetary union, promoting the exchange of commercial, technical, industrial management and scientific information, education and know-how amongst its members and collating, collecting and disseminating statistical data and joint research and development among the SAARC member countries.

In his view, the thrust areas for the SAARC CCI can be divided in to five major areas as follow:

* Awareness building on key economic issues i.e. trade facilitation, NTBs, TBTs.

* Harmonization of customs procedures, intra-regional investment and such others pertaining to promote economic cooperation at the regional level.

* Develop global linkages as a part of its outreach strategy.

* Provide services to its members and representatives of the private sector.

* Work closely with governments, NGOs, CSOs to raise the concern on socioeconomic issues.

* Develop an institutional framework for supporting economic cooperation

He said the SAARC CCI offers following services:

* Liaison with parent body to exchange views on the areas of activities

* Dissemination of data/information amongst members on socioeconomic issues.

* To create awareness amongst the stakeholders about economic issues in the region.

* To voice concerns of the private sector of the region at relevant platforms.

* To provide input /feedback of the private sector on economic and trade related issues to SAARC Secretariat for policy formulation etc.

Emphasising the need for peace and harmony in the South Asian region, Malik said South Asia is becoming the hub of international economic activity; hence, restoration of peace in the region is necessary.

SAARC CCI Vice President said that 40 per cent industry of India was running on LNG and the government should ensure availability of LNG by completing the projects in pipeline.

He said Pakistan had already suffered a colossal loss of $68 billion in the wake of turmoil in Afghanistan and counterterrorism. "Pakistan has so far suffered a total loss of US$35 billion on war against terror while US$33 billion due to turmoil in Afghanistan besides offering tremendous sacrifices of human lives," he said, adding: "Pakistan is now suffering annual loss of $8 billion on war against terror."

He said that Pakistan is the only country in the world, which has suffered huge loss on account of war on terror and need of the hour is that US must provide direct market access to Pak products at zero duty rates to stamp out the menace of terror from the region. "The US should buy back products from industrial zones in Pakistan and help strengthen the existing industrial zones by providing modern infrastructure," he said.

He said Pakistan is passing through most crucial phase of its existence only due to war on terror and all other countries of the world must extend maximum support to Pakistan in every sphere of life to ensure victory against terror.

Mr. Malik said there is a vast scope for US private sector investors in every sector, particularly in the agro power and IT sectors, adding that the US Chamber of Commerce (USCC) can play a pivotal role in promoting bilateral trade relations. ěPakistan is an emerging market rich in opportunities for American investment, while the US is already an important trading partner," he said.

Recalling his meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Malik said he had urged Hillary Clinton to provide direct market access to Pak products on zero duty to help stabilize its bleak economy, which suffered irreparable loss in the war on terror and due to super floods.

Extending duty-free treatment to cotton trousers and shirts, which account for about two thirds of Pakistan's apparel exports to the US, would not hurt textile producers but boost US investment in that sector, he said.

He further said the leaders of the South Asian Business Community (SABC) have decided to convene the 4th SAARC Business Leaders Conclave (SBLC) on April 30 at Dhaka, Bangladesh. It would be organized by SAARC chamber of commerce and industry in collaboration with the FBCCI and all the national chambers and federations of South Asian countries.