I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you assembled here this morning. It is a great honour for me to address this opening session of the Twentieth Annual General Meeting and Conference of the Pakistan Society of Development Economists. Recent decades have witnessed a proliferation of regional integration schemes around the world involving both developed and developing countries alike. In the context of developing economies, the promotion of regional economic cooperation and integration is increasingly being viewed as an important instrument for expediting the process of economic development. It is widely believed that regional economic cooperation yields gains in production specialisation, efficiency and improved quality of exports, all of which benefit the countries participating in the regional cooperation effort.