Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – A three-day trade and tourism exposition of SAARC countries opened in the capital Dhaka on Friday with a call to boost regional trade and introduce on-arrival visa for its citizens.
“Our intra-regional trade among the SAARC countries accounts for only 5.0 percent and less compared with overall trade and this can substantially be increased through cooperation in trade and investment,” Finance Minister AMA Muhith said while speaking at the inauguration of 11th SAARC Trade Fair & Tourism Mart ’12 held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka.
The three-day fair is showcasing the trade and tourism potentials of the SAARC nations. Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) under the Commerce Ministry, and Bangladesh Tourism Board under the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry are jointly organizing the fair.
Entrepreneurs from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries are showcasing their products and services in the categories of garments, textiles, leather, jute, handicrafts, herbals, foods, nursery, spices, jewellery, toys, agricultural machines, tour operators, cosmetics, and books.
About 350 stalls have been set up at the annual event, with the host country displaying their products at around 180 booths.
Addressing the function as the chief guest, the finance minister said regional cooperation is one of the strong instruments of global trade.
Mentioning that Bangladesh’s decision to become a transit country in 2010 paved the way for improving facilities for transit in the region, he also said that Bangladesh would do its best to ensure hassle-free travel through allowing `on arrival’ visa.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Muhammad Faruk Khan said trade and tourism can promote economic development in the region.
“There is immense potential for trade and tourism within the SAARC and beyond,” he said adding, “We have the world’s best mountains, seas, beaches and forests. The governments just need to come up with right policies to exploit the potentials.”
Commerce Minister GM Quader said tourism is the most potential service sector in the region, where the SAARC members can complement each other instead of competing.
President of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) AK Azad stressed the need for giving special attention on addressing tariff barriers and trade barriers. “If we can address these, our trade will go up,”
Nepalese Commerce Minister Lekh Raj Bhatta said that the intra-regional trade among the SAARC countries remained very low compared to the overall trade volume. “We’ll have to find out ways to promote intra-regional trade.”
State Minister for Maldives Amin Abdullah hoped that after the fair, both Bangladesh and his country would be in a position to explore what kind of benefits could be exchanged between these two countries.
During the fair, Bangladesh’s focus will be on visitors from the entire South and South-East Asian nations like India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia and Singapore in the event.
At least four seminars will be held during the three-day event. The exhibition will remain open for visitors from 10 am to 8:00 pm every day without any entry fee.
BBN/SSR/AD-30Mar12-11:50 pm (BST)