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7th South Asia Economic Summit
Nov 14, 2014

Launched in 2008, the South Asia Economic Summit is the premier regional platform for dialogue and debate on socio-economic issues facing South Asia. Each year, the Summit tackles critical issues, develops new insights and generates ideas on policy priorities for consideration of the subregion’s decision makers. It is organized by a group of six think-tanks that take turns to organize the event in one of the SAARC countries. This year, the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a New Delhi-based autonomous think-tank was the key organizer with support from the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India.

Inaugurating the Summit Vice President of India, M. Hamid Ansari said that regional trade facilitation projects such as coordinated border management, regional single window clearance through a digital interface and regional transit that would allow free movement of goods could pave the way for an economic union in the region.

The Theme of the 7th South Asia Economic Summit was Towards South Asia Economic Union

Some of the regional trade facilitation projects may ease the way for an economic union. These could be

  • Coordinated border management, such as co-location of facilities, delegation of administrative authority, cross-designation of officials, and effective information sharing.

  • Regional single window which is a digital interface that allows traders to submit all information and documentation required by regulatory agencies via a single electronic gateway.

  • Regional transit, which would help the region to move the goods and services move freely, thereby strengthening production networks in South Asia.

Leaders of SAARC countries have been continually emphasising the importance of enhancing economic cooperation for regional integration, for instance at the 17th SAARC Summit, held at Maldives in 2011, South Asian leaders spoke about the need to work on a vision for future development of South Asia, including the goal and elements of a South Asian Economic Union (SAEU).

The intra-regional trade in South Asia has doubled since the region implemented the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). The intra-regional exports have increased to about $22 billion in 2013 from USD 10 billion in 2006. South Asia is expected to achieve substantial tariff reduction by 2016 as SAFTA implementation makes further progress.

The creation of South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) would prove to be a milestone in regional cooperation efforts. Most regions in the world are moving towards greater economic integration, as South Asia lags behind. The logic of economic union lies in re-distribution of common and shared resources within the region in a most efficient and effective manner.

Economic union enhances manifold the bargaining power of member countries in the global arena and helps in realising the full potential of trade complementarities. There are definite advantages of moving towards an economic union but the roadmap has to be well thought out and a strategy has to be in place, which is ambitious but realistic.

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