South Asia Economic Union Publication Announced at ADB

9 April 2015

A Seminar on South Asia Economic Union (SAEU) was conducted at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Headquarters on 9 April 2015. This South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) study was adopted at the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, Nepal in November 2014 and identified the need for closer regional economic integration among SAARC member countries, including, among others, fully implementing the South Asia Free Trade Area Agreement, reducing non-tariff barriers, Customs streamlining and harmonization, development of regional value chains, and integrating formal and informal trade. Investment is seen as key to economic integration.

H.E. Mr. Arjun Bahadur Thapa, SAARC Secretary General, gave a keynote address on regional cooperation in the region and initiatives aimed at improving connectivity in South Asia, while SAARC Director L. Savithri presented on the next steps in the SAEU agenda. Mr. Diwesh Sharan, ADB South Asia Department Deputy Director General highlighted in his opening remarks ADB support for SAARC in pursuing the SAEU agenda, and the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation Program’s relevance as a vehicle for implementing SAARC connectivity projects.

A panel discussion led by Mr. Jayant Menon, Lead Economist of ADB’s Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, looked at the European Union model as a success story of full integration. Viewing SAEU as a stepping stone to broader liberalization and ASEAN as an example on how to connect with the rest of the world, Mr. Menon further recognized that the real benefits of SAEU were not so much economic, but political – the “peace dividend” – since there can be no economic achievement without peace. His discussion concluded with an acknowledgement of the challenges in achieving SAEU and possible solutions such as the need to focus on a multilateral framework to utilize benefits, including national reform on land acquisition and labor.

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