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SAFTA can succeed if economics rules over politics

Written by: Staff
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Mumbai, Mar 26: Although SAARC nations have agreed on implementing South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), it can take off only if politics takes a backseat and allows economics to take centre-stage, experts said at a conference here.

The National Consultation Conference on ''Regional Economic Co-operation in South Asia'' at Indian Merchants' Chamber yesterday, was jointly organised by the Indian Merchants' Chamber, CUTS International and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung - India.

Speaking on the occasion, consulting economist Dr P R Joshi said free trade would get a boost if SAARC nations learned to overcome their political differences within geo-political and economic realities.

''Instead of adopting a 'big brother's' attitude towards neighbouring countries, India should adopt a 'parental' attitude and try to accommodate the members' economic needs for harmonious development of the region,'' he said.

He also highlighted the need for building basic infrastructures such as transport and communications facilities and establishing connectivity between SAARC member countries.

Dr Jivan K Mukhopadhyay, Professor at the S P Jain Institute of Management and Research, stressed upon the need for business houses to draw up proactive programmes in support of regional free trade initiatives of the governments of the region.

Consideration of profits must not be the only criteria of doing business, but business houses must take a long-term view of business development, he said.

Instead of competing with each other within the region, they must team up and offer competition to other countries, Mr Mukhopadhyay added.

The Hindu Business Line Editor G Chandrashekhar opined that intra-regional trade would not pick up merely by reducing tariff barriers; it was essential to go beyond it for issues such as harmonisation of customs, labour laws and various trade practices.

Dr Ajit Ranade from Aditya Birla Management Corporation said that emphasis on improving trade relations was the best way to promote overall economic and political relations. ''Free intra-regional trade brings economic and political benefits, but whether it promotes FDI flow is a guess,'' he said.

UNI

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