The 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit might have been dominated by food security and terrorism, but it marked quiet progress in business and trade cooperation in the region.
The setting up of the South Asian Regional Standards Organisation (SARSO) could prove vital to the future of trade in the closely-linked region. As foreign secretary Shivashankar Menon said, SARSO would help harmonise trade practices in terms of mutual recognition of standards, common tariff classifications and customs procedures.
At a recent seminar in New Delhi, organised by the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and PHDCCI, it was said the trade potential in the region is around $40 billion while 2006 estimates put the value of trade at less than $11 billion. To bridge this gap, access to energy would be critical. The Colombo Declaration emphasised the need to implement the recommendations made by the South Asia Energy Dialogue held in New Delhi two years ago.