ADB gives $21m to help expand South Asian trade | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 21, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 21, 2013

ADB gives $21m to help expand South Asian trade

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will give $21 million in soft loans to help goods move more smoothly in and out of Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal, by overhauling time-consuming, costly, and often opaque customs procedures that are inhibiting intraregional trade.
The project will help three countries, all members of the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, adopt an international customs administration protocol, upgrade existing automated customs management systems, and establish web-based electronic trade portals.
Md Abul Kalam Azad, secretary of the Economic Relations Division, and M Teresa Kho, country director of ADB's Bangladesh Resident Mission, signed the deal for the SASEC trade facilitation project at the ERD in the capital yesterday.
These measures will give importers and exporters accurate information timely, ADB said in a statement yesterday.
India, which is also a SASEC member, is not included in the programme as it is funding its own trade facilitation reforms and is significantly ahead of its neighbours, according to the statement.
“Removing the many non-tariff barriers which currently impede trade will have a major multiplier effect on trade volumes across South Asia,” said Kho.
“Automated, user-friendly, transparent customs systems will cut business costs, reduce informal activity, and give a real lift to importers and exporters, including women entrepreneurs.”
The project, which targets a 7.5 percent rise in intraregional trade volumes by 2018, will complement SASEC cross-border transport projects to improve connectivity, and planned investments in projects across the transport, trade facilitation and energy sectors, it said.
SASEC, set up in 2001 as an initiative of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal, aims to promote domestic and regional prosperity through stronger transport links and increased trade and cooperation across sectors ranging from energy, tourism, the private sector and the environment.
ADB acts as secretariat for SASEC.
The National Board of Revenue will execute the project scheduled to be completed in 2015.
Despite healthy growth, South Asia's low levels of intraregional trade make it one of the least integrated regions in the world, according to the statement.
"Of the total regional trade, intraregional trade is only 6 percent in South Asia against 55 percent in East Asia. Processing and export delivery times are more than 30 percent slower than in East Asia and the Pacific, while administrative fees and storage and handling costs are 43 percent more expensive."

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