BIMSTEC chief urges member states to boost trade within the region

Secretary General of BIMSTEC Tenzin Lekphell has expressed his optimism that all the member states will put in place necessary trade facilitation measures as soon as possible to boost trade within the region.

“Today as the world economy passes through economic and political uncertainties, all countries are facing huge challenges in coping up with these uncertainties,” he said, putting emphasis on “collective action” to address the challenges, reports UNB.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam spoke as the chief guest at BIMSTEC Day reception held at its headquaters in Dhaka on Tuesday evening. Ambassadors and high commissioners from BIMSTEC member states were present.

Terming BIMSTEC a dynamic region, the secretary general said all challenges and crises also create opportunities that need to be capitalized.

He said the BIMSTEC Energy Centre that will act as the Secretariat of BIMSTEC energy cooperation will formally be inaugurated in India later this year.

The secretary general also expressed happiness that the BIMSTEC maritime cooperation agreement was also endorsed by the 19th ministerial meeting in March this year and will be signed during the upcoming sixth summit in Thailand.

The meeting also endorsed several important instruments including the BIMSTEC Bangkok Vision 2030, Agreement on Maritime Transport Cooperation, Rules of Procedures for BIMSTEC Mechanisms, Terms of Reference for Eminent Persons’ Group, Inclusion of Blue Economy, Mountain Economy and Poverty Alleviation under the purview of re-constituted sectors/sub-sectors of BIMSTEC Cooperation.

Lekphell said the three key components to realise intergrid connection namely the BIMSTEC Energy Master Plan; BIMSTEC Policy for Transmission of Electricity; and the Policy for Trade, Exchange of Electricity and Tariff Mechanism – are nearing completion.

Shahriar Alam said Bangladesh and a few other BIMSTEC members will quickly lose the advantages they had after graduating from LDC status, and in the BIMSTEC process, they must work together to develop alternatives.

He urged all the stakeholders to strengthen and put our partnership into action. “The earliest conclusion of all constituent agreements and MoUs pertaining to the BIMSTEC FTA is required,” he said.

The state minister said through coordination, facilitation, and implementation of all decisions, the Secretariat has a significant role to play in any regional organization.

He said they look forward to the Secretariat to be progressive and proactive while maintaining objectivity and neutrality.

“We want the BIMSTEC process to be most effective and result oriented. We want BIMSTEC to deliver and contribute in fulfilling the dream of Bangabandhu who was an ardent proponent of regional cooperation and envisioned closer cooperation among the countries of the region for the socio-economic emancipation of the people,” he said.

The state minister said the Bay of Bengal, which includes two dynamic regions of South Asia and Southeast Asia, has enormous potential for growth through significant multi-sectoral collaboration.

He urged member states to follow a quick course of action to complete the negotiation on the BIMSTEC Free Trade Area and sign the relevant legal documents so that concrete actions could be taken.

He also called upon the member states and the Secretariat to take rapid measures to implement the already concluded legal documents.

There is a tremendous amount of untapped and unexplored potential for growth and development in the dynamic Bay of Bengal region, said the state minister.

He said the world is going through immense economic uncertainties at the moment.

“While our countries are trying to overcome the unprecedented consequences of the Covid-19, the Ukraine war and sanctions have brought new challenges for us. We need to enhance our cooperation to face these challenges,” said Shahriar Alam.

During the 5th BIMSTEC Summit, the leaders of seven member states adopted the BIMSTEC Charter, and also reconstituted sectors and sub-sectors which has provided BIMSTEC a solid footing and allowed a higher level of cooperation.

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