Energy Bangla | Saturday, 08.30.2008
BIMSTEC can be a Bridge between South & Southeast Asia
Bangladesh felt that the BIMSTEC has immense potential for creating greater economic interaction, flow of trade and investment among the member states.
‘We need to ensure that this opportunity is not lost,’ said the foreign adviser, Iftekhar Choudhury, at the opening session of the 10th BIMSTEC ministerial meeting in New Delhi on Friday.
A message from New Delhi said that Iftekhar had discussed various issues including the free trade agreement, terrorism; agriculture and climate change, saying that BIMSTEC could work as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia.
Touching on the issue of agriculture, Iftekhar said, ‘Apart from the fact that the majority of our population is dependent on agriculture, the impact of rising food prices and food shortages is felt most heavily by the rural population.’
He laid emphasis on developing a strategic action plan to increase agricultural productivity in the short-, medium- and long-term.
Referring to the SAARC Food Bank, he said, ‘We may consider establishing a similar mechanism under the BIMSTEC.’
He expressed concern over the increasing trend of criminal activities in South Asia, saying that such criminal elements have the potential to disrupt regional peace and stability.
‘Bangladesh is committed to deal with these issues firmly and decisively. We are heartened at the finalization of the BIMSTEC Convention on Combating International Terrorism, Trans-National Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking,’ he said.
Iftekhar maintained that the Free Trade Agreement is a measure that holds the promise of increasing intra-regional trade.
‘I understand the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement among the BIMSTEC countries have been going on for quite sometime now. Though we expected the FTA to be concluded and come into effect by July 2006, it is yet be finalised,’ he pointed out.
Attaching importance to approaching the issue with a greater sense of urgency, and demonstrating flexibility and accommodation to conclude the agreement without delay, he said, ‘Bangladesh has withheld announcing a date for the next BIMSTEC Trade Ministers Meeting, pending the outcome and finalisation of the draft FTA.’
‘We urge the Trade Negotiation Committee to conclude the negotiations at their next meeting,’ the adviser added.
He stressed that BIMSTEC’s FTA would be a more meaningful instrument for increasing intra-regional trade if the members were able to remove and dismantle all tariff and non-tariff barriers.
Referring to progress of the BIMSTEC Business Visa Scheme, Iftekhar expressed hope that all the member states would accord due priority to it to smoothen and facilitate the movement of the business community.
‘Easier movement of professionals and people at large as well as simplification of all related procedures will ultimately bring our peoples closer.’
The adviser said that Bangladesh attaches great importance to connectivity in the region, as it believes in facilitating the movement of goods and people throughout the region.
The BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistics and Study (BTILS), which has just been concluded, provides useful insights into the existing weaknesses in transport infrastructure in the member states, he added.
The adviser vowed to continue Bangladesh’s strong commitment to move the BIMSTEC forward.
‘Bangladesh has been in the forefront of all efforts to institutionalise regional cooperation. I would like to reiterate Bangladesh’s offer to host the permanent Secretariat of the BIMSTEC in Dhaka,’ said Iftekhar.