Sri Lanka business leader says trade barriers still hamper regional integration

Aug 28, 2008 (LBO) – South Asian nations should lower trade barriers to make a regional economic co-operation work and deliver the promised benefits to the region’s people, a Sri Lankan business leader said Thursday.

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Regional integration is the key to improving the living standards and economies of the region of 1.5 billion people grouped under the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), said Macky Hashim.

“Though we have for some time envisioned regional integration, we have never been able to make that vision a reality. It remains a distant dream,” he told the opening session of a south Asian economic summit.

It was organized by the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL).

Hashim, a former president of the FCCISL, said the ultimate goal of the bloc was to create an entirely new culture in trade, commerce and investment within the region.

“The most important SAARC instrument that will transform the grouping is SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Agreement) which is expected to create a