South Asia needs to improve connectivity, cut non-tariff barriers to boost trade: Sahney

New Delhi, Nov 1 (PTI) The South Asian region needs to improve transport connectivity, reduce non-tariff barriers and address logistics and regulatory roadblocks to promote trade and investment within the region, a trade expert said. Intra-regional trade in South Asia continues to linger between 5-6 per cent of the their total trade despite huge market opportunities for businesses, former president of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vikramjit Singh Sahney said Thursday. He also outlined that the estimated average cost of trade within the region was 20 per cent which was higher than that with other regions. "Limited transport connectivity, growing non-tariff barriers, onerous logistics and regulatory impediments costs more to trade within South Asia than inter-regionally," he said here at the regional connectivity conference organised by think tank CUTS international.Sahney, who is a senior national executive member of Ficci and chairman of SUN Group, said that as per the estimates the average cost of trade within South Asia is 20 per cent -- higher than other regions. "Besides, the region also suffers from a trust deficit as a whole which serves as a detriment to regional cooperation and integration," he added the region is home to over 1.5 billion population which provides a huge market. He said that connectivity not only enhances trade but also increases productivity, innovation, employment opportunities and boosts tourism. "People to people connect is another crucial benefit that I foresee from such engagements," he said suggesting the region should explore to negotiate a trade agreement."I do feel it is high time that the region strengthens its roots to establish its unique identity," he said. PTI RR MRMR