The South Asian nations should improve their physical infrastructure, especially roads and rail links, because they must have strong physical connectivity to form a trade alliance, Prof Rehman Sobhan said.
Referring to Sri Lanka-Pakistan, Sri Lanka-India, and Nepal-India free trade agreements, the chairman of the think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue suggested that Bangladesh should make bilateral free trade agreements with several countries to expand the opportunities of trade.
The government of Bangladesh needs to utilise support from China to develop road and rail infrastructure, said Rehman Sobhan on Tuesday, presenting a paper titled "Trade and regional value chains" at the four-day Bay of Bengal Economic Dialogue 2021.
The dialogue was organised by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem).
China not only provides capital but also gives technical support to formulate and implement development projects, Prof Sobhan said. Most of the ongoing projects implemented with domestic resources now are getting support from Chinese companies.
The efforts to ensure economic integration in South Asian and east Asian countries do not attain the goal due to trade barriers and infrastructural constraints, the economist said.
Some Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea and India are going to be very powerful players in the global economy, with China being at the centre, he added.
Sri Lankan Ambassador Sumith Nakandala, distinguished fellow of Pathfinder Foundation; and former secretary general of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation chaired the session.
Dr Suthiphand Chirathivat, professor emeritus, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand; Dr Posh Raj Pandey, chairman of South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment, Nepal; Dr Nitya Nanda, director, Council for Social Development, India; remarked on the presentation.
The four-day dialogue on how to overcome Covid-19 challenges in the Bay of Bengal region was inaugurated on Monday.