8:44 AM

First South Asia Economic Summit

While the 15th SAARC Summit successfully completed in Colombo, the first ever South Asia Economic Summit (SAES) picks up at the BMICH from 28th to 30th August and it will be held parallel to the SAARC Trade Fair 2008 which will also be held at the BMICH.

The need for regional economic cooperation is paramount with traditional trade partners of South Asian Countries at a time there is global economic turmoil and at a time countries struggling in the wake of financial market crises coupled with soaring costs of energy and food.

Sri Lanka, holding the Chair, has an opportunity and responsibility to provide leadership in setting the agenda to take SAARC through this challenging time to emerge a stronger regional group. A key input for this process would be the contribution of academia, the private sector and civil society of South Asia.

SAES will focus on leading economic integration issues including the status and challenges facing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), and regional integration in services and investment. Key regional infrastructure issues such as transport, ICT and trade facilitation measures are also addressed in separate sessions.

Summit will provide a forum for discussion of regional solutions to critical global challenges. A surge in global energy costs has provided a platform for regional cooperation in energy, particularly given the fact that some members have surpluses in energy whilst others face serious energy deficits.

The global food crisis will also be discussed from a South Asian perspective, debating regional options and solutions. Climate change is another critical challenge – interlinked with a whole gamut of development related issues. Given the difficulties in achieving a global consensus for action on this matter, the onus is on South Asian countries to tailor solutions to regional threats within the constraint of regional capabilities.

SAES will also comprise of a series of parallel sessions addressing a variety of specific interests including Sri Lanka’s bilateral trade arrangements with India and Pakistan and sectoral issues such as cooperation in tourism, labour migration, and issues facing weaker economies.

SAES objectives are: to take stock of the new economic-related issues emerging from the 15th SAARC Summit; to follow up on the major theme of the 14th SAARC Summit in 2007, i.e., improving “connectivity” in the region (transport, energy, and trade facilitation); to look at deepening and broadening economic integration by fast tracking goods liberalization under SAFTA and incorporating services and investment for liberalization in the region, respectively; to examine measures to strengthen the SAARC process by empowering the SAARC institutions and the Secretariat; to look at integrating sub-regional economic cooperation to a broader South Asian framework; to analyze ways and means of encouraging more people-to-people contact by promoting tourism and other means; and to assess emerging new issues in South Asian economic cooperation. These issues will be discussed in the context of achieving the SAARC Development Goals (SDGs).

SAES will be jointly organized by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS) and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Sri Lanka (FCCISL) in collaboration with a number of institutes in the region: Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), India; South Asia Centre for Policy Studies (SACEPS), Nepal; and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics & Environment (SAWTEE), Nepal. The SAES will also have collaboration and technical inputs from the World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNDP Regional Centre Colombo, and the Asian Development Bank.