Sri Lanka, South Asian can benefit from free trade, education

June 12, 2012 (LBO) – Sri Lanka and her South Asian neighbors should give trade freedoms to their citizens, strengthen property rights and increase investments in education, a business executive turned politician has said. While South Asian nations were trading with countries in the West whose citizens had won trade freedoms and had high living standards, intra South Asian trade was weak.

“The understanding of the primary importance of trade is absolutely essential to fully leverage the power of Asia,” Asad Umar, senior vice president of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf, a political party started by cricketer Imran Khan told a business forum in Colombo.

“Guess who is the laggard in Asia, in terms of regional trade? While global trading opportunities are critical, one of the most important drivers of development – even of trade – is trade within a region.”

Umar, a former chief executive of Pakistan’s Engro petroleum group which grew out of a management buyout from an Exxon unit, was speaking at Sri Lanka’s Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Business Leaders’ Summit.

Nationalism

The lowest share of intra regional trade in the world was South Asia at one percent, he said. Countri