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    More ASEAN-South Asia Trade Urged


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2001

    Major opportunities for trade expansion between ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) and South Asia lie untapped as only about 4% of combined trade takes place between the two regions, said a senior adviser with a United Nations body.

    That was the message from Mr. Hendrik Roelofsen of the Geneva-based ITC in a speech to senior representatives of trade associations and business chambers of 11 countries attending a three-day seminar on trade promotion here yesterday (Singapore, 23 May 2001).

    "While the potential is there, low levels of trade prevail and that is largely a result of lack of awareness of business opportunities, lack of information on those opportunities and the absence of a suitable trade promotion infrastructure."

    Representatives from China, ASEAN members - Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines- as well as South Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and India attended the seminar.

    ASEAN was "pretty well-developed" in terms of intra-regional trade, with about 22% of total trade taking place among the ten member countries, he said.

    However, trade between South Asian and ASEAN countries was at a nascent stage. Trade among the countries of South Asia such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was also largely undeveloped, with less than 5% of combined trade conducted within the region.

    The seminar's aim is to bring together small and medium-sized enterprises of both regions as well as China to translate promising opportunities into new business.

    Such opportunities would be identified using methods such as trade flow analyses and market studies of respective countries, culminating in meetings between buyers and sellers of products.

    ITC, whose mandate is to help developing countries expand their trade sectors, is working with the ASEAN Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

    This article first appeared on 24 May 2001 in The Straits Times. It is reprinted with permission of the author and The Straits Times. For more information on South-South trade, contact Hendrik Roelofsen, Director, ITC Division of Technical Cooperation Coordination, at roelofsen@intracen.org