South Asia Trade and Investment Network


Commonwealth Business Council
The Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) was established by the Commonwealth Heads of Government in October 1997 to involve the private sector in the promotion of trade and investment. The CBC acts as a bridge for co-operation between business and government, helping to remove barriers to trade, and mobilise investment into Commonwealth countries. Today the CBC also addresses the following challenges, working in partnership with Commonwealth governments and the private sector:

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SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) is recognised by all the governments of SAARC member countries as the apex trade organisation of the region with its permanent headquarters based in Islamabad, Pakistan. The constitution of SCCI was given official recognition by SAARC in 1993. The SCCI acts as an institutional framework for promoting economic cooperation in South Asia. It was created with the objective to build and develop global linkages. SAARC countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Since 2008 the following have observer status at SAARC: the EU, USA, China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Australia and Myanmar.

SCCI-CBC Partnership: South Asia Trade and Investment Network (SATIN)
The SCCI-CBC partnership was created under the banner of SATIN (South Asian Trade and Investment Network). Recognising the importance of growing business linkages with South Asia, the CBC extended its involvement with the establishment of SATIN to increase investment and trade flows in the region. SATIN aims to mobilise an international private sector base with interest in the region to broaden and extend existing business relationships. Key objectives include encouraging intra-regional trade, business-government dialogue on strengthening the investment climate, sharing best practices in corporate governance, private sector development and productivity, facilitating networks and expanding opportunities for diasporas and business entrepreneurs outside South Asia to participate in international trade and investment in the region. The support of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for the SATIN project is gratefully acknowledged.

For further details, contact: Gregor MacKinnon, Director-Programmes, CBC;  Arif Zaman, Programme Director, SATIN and Adviser, South Asia, CBC; Iqbal Tabish, Secretary General, SCCI

The South Asian challenge

“It is ironic that people from South Asia who are hard-working, enterprising and have achieved such extraordinary success in their endeavours abroad, including in their ability to work with each other, have been unable to overcome their mutual differences or to harness and realize the enormous economic potential of the region, as well as their individual countries in South Asia.

The people of South Asia urgently need to overcome the bitter legacies of the past in order to create an environment for peace and security and build a better tomorrow of economic prosperity for our people. The twin phenomena of strategic peril and economic promise throw a daunting challenge to all of us. But it’s a challenge that must be met, so that South Asia can be in sync with the great global transformations of our times.”
Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, former Pakistan Ambassador to the USA and High Commissioner to the UK


The First South Asia Economic Summit was held in Colombo, as a follow up to the 15th SAARC Heads of State Summit. The Summit was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies Sri Lanka, and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka in partnership with RIS, SACEPS, SAWTEE, World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, UNDP, and the ADB. The Conference brought together academics, private sector, civil society, and the policy makers from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

The First South Asia Economic Summit debated and discussed regional development issues for three days. It was argued that despite progress in regional economic growth, poverty remains a challenge in South Asia, particularly in rural and border areas. The importance of regional market integration to achieve higher growth leading to poverty alleviation in South Asia was stressed throughout the Summit. Increased market integration and inclusive, sustainable growth were highlighted as being critical to accelerating economic development, creating jobs, reducing poverty, and promoting peace and stability in the region.

A concluding resolution was signed by a cross-section of the participants at the First South Asia Economic Summit. The resolution is aimed at building regional capacity, deepening understanding of regional development issues, promoting networking between policy makers, academics, private sector, and the civil society, and supporting the implementation of regional cooperation and development agenda. The Communiqué emphasised the following goals as high priority:

• Management of the current food crisis
• Enhance intra-regional trade in goods and services
• Improve connectivity, transport and trade facilitation
• Promote regional energy cooperation and trade
• Improve regional ICT network
• Facilitate regional remittance flows and management
• Improve regional cooperation in disaster management and climate change
• Promote cross-border flow of investments

South Asia Trade and Investment Forum (SATIF), London 22 - 23 November 2006

The South Asia Trade and Investment Forum was held in London on 22-23 November 2006 and organised by CBC and the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) with support from the Department for International Development (DfID) UK It involved 180 participants from 20 countries who were addressed by over 40 speakers, including 3 Government Ministers, 3 High Commissioners and many leading business people. The objective of the event was to highlight the opportunities for enhanced trade and investment with and within the South Asia region as a way of helping achieve sustained economic growth and poverty alleviation. It also identified some of the key challenges ahead and proposed action to address those challenges.  

Regional Roundtable on Trade Liberalisation in SAARC, Islamabad, 3-4 May 2006
Leveraging Cross Border Linkages in South Asia for Economic Growth

Opportunities created through cross border linkages and trade liberalisation under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) were the focus of a roundtable meeting organised in Islamabad, Pakistan on 3-4 May by the Commonwealth Business Council together with the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI).

It is estimated that if it is effectively implemented, SAFTA could help to raise the value of intra-regional trade to $14 billion from its current level of $6 billion. Leveraging cross border linkages could drive this expansion from the present low levels of regional trade which account for less than 6 per cent of total trade.

The meeting, which was addressed by the Minister for Industries of Pakistan, Hon J.K. Tareen and the Minister of Commerce of Sri Lanka, Hon Jayaraj Fernandopulle, brought together 50 business and government leaders and trade experts from the seven countries of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Ratification of SAFTA will be completed by 30 June 2006 and from 1 July, tariff cuts and rules of origin will come into force. Roundtable participants took the view that along with the tariff reductions it was essential to focus on trade facilitation measures including freer movement for business between countries, the removal of non-tariff barriers and harmonisation of customs procedures, in order to realise the full benefits of liberalised trade. They also urged that SAFTA should be expanded to include services and investment.

Business leaders who addressed the meeting, including Dasho Ugen Dorji, President of SCCI and Naseem Saigol, CBC Board Member and Chairman of Saigol Group of Companies, emphasised that business engagement was important to encourage political leaders to continue the process of trade and investment co-operation. Companies were already developing regional strategies for business operations, highlighted at the meeting by Sajjad Syed, Regional Business Manager for Oracle. And there are immense opportunities offered by regional synergies, stated Tanmoy Chakrabarty, Vice President & Head, Global Industry Group for Tata Consultancy Services.

The SAFTA Roundtable, supported by DFID and AusAID, forms part of the programme for development of the South Asia Trade and Investment Network (SATIN) by the CBC and SCCI.


Arif Zaman
Tel: +44 (0) 207 024 8200