President SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry Iftikhar Ali Malik Saturday stressed the need for unlocking potentials of regional economic cooperation and integration to boost trade among SAARC members countries especially with Afghanistan at this critical juncture. Talking to a delegation of traders led by Ch Muhammad Farooq Arain of Manchester UK which called him here today he said inter regional trade in South Asia is less than one third of its potential which indicates 67pc of trade is not being fully exploited. He said role of Afghanistan as a connector and as land bridge between Central Asia, the Middle East and South Asia needs to be reviewed in prevailing scenario to primarily focus on promotion of trade and investment. He said even today, Afghanistan is seen as a viable doorway to South Asian countries for direct access to oil and gas of republics of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. He said better trade ties will help promote economic growth and to do away with abject poverty in the region especially in Afghanistan thus enhancing its cross border and transit trade with neighboring countries. He said poor trade facilitation at borders and prevalence of a variety of non-tariff barriers are major hurdles in further enhancing mutual trade manifolds with Afghanistan. Iftikhar Ali said at the moment what we need is total up-gradation and strengthening of existing facilitation, handling and clearance of transport and trade at the Pak-Afghan land borders besides consolidation of initiatives taken by new regime of Taliban. He said Pakistan after Iran and China is the third largest trading partner of Afghanistan which exports cement, pharmaceuticals products, Sulphur, stone, plaster, citrus fruit, melon, vegetable fats, edible fruits and oil etc. He said Afghanistan’s main exports are carpets and rugs which accounts for 45pc of total exports, while dried fruits constitute 31pc, medicinal plants 12pc. He said main export partners are Pakistan 48pc, India 19pc and Russia 9pc other include Iran, Iraq and Turkey.