According to Cecile Fruman, Director, Regional Integration and Engagement in the South Asia Region of the World Bank, only 5% of South Asia’s trade is done within the region. More free trade agreements are required, as well as seamless connectivity. Despite major connection plans and infrastructure development, South Asia remains the world’s least linked area, with only 5% of overall trade taking place within its borders. According to Cecile Fruman, greater integration and seamless connectivity could boost trade by $44 billion.
“In terms of connection, this is a region that is not well integrated. Moving a lorry across the border from India to Bangladesh takes 138 hours and requires 22 paperwork and 55 signatures. South Asia is not well integrated in many aspects,” Fruman, who was visiting India, added. Intra-regional trade in South Asia accounts for only 5% of total trade, which is about a third of what it could be, according to our calculations. So, if this were to integrate on a trade level, an additional $44 billion in trade could be generated, she said.
She pointed out that, in comparison, intra-regional trade is 25 per cent of total trade in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and 60 per cent in the 27-member European Union (EU).