Business leaders have called for smoother regional networking and communication to boost trade among the member countries of the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Cacci).
Representatives from different countries made the call at the opening ceremony of the 33rd conference of Cacci in Dhaka on Tuesday.
Pradeep Kumar Shrestha, the organisation's vice-president from Nepal, said, "As a regional platform, Cacci should think about developing a smooth networking and communication system within its member countries. We cannot work properly without a strong network today."
"We need to utilise the opportunity to know and do business with each other through this platform.
"If you see some regional ways – how the Asian tigers have gotten together and developed them and how the EU did the same, you will find it very unfortunate that the Saarc countries have failed to do that. Even travelling from Bangladesh to India, Bangladesh to Pakistan is still a problem," he said.
"Cacci can lead its 29 member countries, who together can sign an agreement on seeing each other and exploring trade and business opportunities," added Pradeep Kumar Shrestha, also the managing director of Panchakanya Group.
He hoped that five to seven other countries will be added to this platform very soon.
"West is very saturated. Two-thirds of the population of the world live in the eastern part of the world, that is the Asia-Pacific region, where most of the developing and under developed countries are. It is an opportunity for us. Though there are a lot of problem, but those problems can be solved," opined Pradeep Kumar Shrestha.
In his inaugural speech, Cacci President Samir Modi said, "Business leaders now must think about free movement of product, capital and people in this region."
"We need to form a unified regulation to develop a system and to help entrepreneurs to take the tremendous opportunity created by globalisation," he added.
The Asia-Pacific region is now the world's largest and fastest developing economy spearheading growth in trade, investments, new technologies, innovation and reforms.
Samir Modi said the recent economic trends in Asia and the Pacific lend optimism to perceptions that the region will maintain its preponderant influence as the engine of the global economy in future also.
While Asia is at the forefront of the global economy today, it confronts some fundamental challenges that may require a shift in the region's growth model, he said.
Preserving international and regional collaboration also remains an important overarching objective for strong economic integration of the region, the Cacci President added.
Pedram Soltani, Cacci vice-president from Iran, said, "We should focus on working together and discuss the challenges and opportunities of building a strong network to boost our national economy."
He said, "We have scope to work together in the coming days to make Asia and Asia-Pacific economy stronger."
"The track record of some of the Asian economies, like that of China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh, has given us confidence about growing more together," added Pedram Soltani, chairman of Persol Corporation, a global supplier of petroleum products and petrochemicals.
The Prime Minister's Adviser on Private Industries and Investment Salman F Rahman attended the programme as the chief guest.
He said, "Two deep sea ports – Matarbari and Payra – will be able to fully operate by the next three to four years."
"The ports will be a game-changer for export-import business of Bangladesh," said Salman.
"Not having deep sea ports is a big challenge for us as we are currently doing export-import business using ports in Singapore and Colombo," Salman added.
Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry President Sheikh Fazle Fahim also spoke at the event.