Lahore: A high-level delegation of private sector Saturday left for Thimpu (Bhutan) to represent Pakistan in the forth coming 70th executive committee meeting of Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Talking to media before departure, leader of the delegation Vice-President Saarc Chamber and Chairman United Business Group Iftikhar Ali Malik said that distinctive features of the CEPC would also be highlighted during the deliberations besides briefing to the participants on regional issues confronting the South Asian countries.

He said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would act as a trade bridge between South Asia, Middle East and Europe by building roads, railways and, consequently, the enhance trade potential of the region.

He said the CPEC was a geo-economic project, with economic implications not just for China and Pakistan, but also indirectly benefit other countries those are not part of the $46 billion investment.

The economic corridor would benefit new emerging regional cooperation in South Asia, besides transforming the future of the region, driven by economy and energy, and the laying of pipelines and building ports with roads rail infrastructure, he added.

Answering a question, Iftikhar Ali Malik said goods from the landlocked Bhutan and Nepal could not access the Pakistani markets through the shorter land route passing through India.

“These countries cannot transit their goods through Pakistan to Central Asia and China. Similarly, Bangladesh cannot access the shorter land route through

India to Pakistan and onward to China or West Asia, North Africa and Gulf states”, he said and added that island nations of Maldives and Sri Lanka can of course reach China through Gwadar. Bhutan and Nepal can directly link with China, while Bangladesh lies on the Southwestern route of the Silk Road linking it with Kinmin in Yunnan province of China.

Shaharyar Ali Malik, deputy leader of the delegation said global trade statistics reveal that while the volume of trade among the Saarc states and the rest of the world are increasing, intra-regional trade remains far below its potential.

“We should, therefore, have to evolve mechanism to incentivise formal trade among the SAARC member countries. In this context, I will like to re-emphasize the need for a gradual reduction and eventual elimination of Tariffs, Para-tariffs and Non-tariff barriers so as to allow freer trade among the SAARC states”, he added.

Hameed Akhtar Chadda, former Vice-President FPCCI, another member of the delegation said better infrastructure and connectivity would ultimately benefit Afghanistan and Central Asian Republic for which Pakistan was the gateway.

President, senior vice presidents and all the 8 vice presidents along with members of the executive committee from Pakistan, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan Bhutan and Nepal, will also participate to get first-hand information about benefits and opportunities to exploit these to own advantage during and after completion of CPEC Project, he concluded.