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BIMSTEC meet sets early deadline for FTA

The Hindu, India

BIMSTEC meet sets early deadline for FTA

Diplomatic Correspondent

Stress on improving transport links among member States

10 August 2006

NEW DELHI: Foreign Ministers from the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Economic and Technical Cooperation have agreed that negotiations to finalise a BIMSTEC free trade agreement should be concluded before the next BIMSTEC summit scheduled to be held early next year in India.

A joint statement issued by the seven-nation grouping after a daylong meeting here on Wednesday also stressed the importance of improving transport links among member States. It stated that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) should "work closely" with BIMSTEC nations.

The Ministers welcomed the decision to establish a BIMSTEC Energy Centre in India that would act as a focal point for strengthening cooperation in the energy sector through sharing of experience and capacity building.

They emphasised the importance of sharing experiences and strengthening cooperation among member countries in the fields of grid connectivity, gas pipelines, hydro power, renewable sources of energy, energy efficiency, access to energy in all areas and energy sector reforms, restructuring, regulations and best practices.

"We agreed to strengthen our emergency preparedness for natural disasters, especially through early warning systems. To this effect, we encourage networking between the BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate and other existing regional institutions, such as the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC) and the SAARC Meteorological Research Centre,’’ the Ministers agreed.

They reiterated the need to establish a permanent BIMSTEC Secretariat and appreciated the work done by the first inter-governmental experts group meeting.

Though the Ministers agreed to a date of February 8 for the Second BIMSTEC summit, which will be hosted by India, Bangladesh is expected to be in the middle of the election process at that time. This could lead to a change in the date for the summit.

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by Foreign Ministers Morshed Khan (Bangladesh), Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk (Bhutan), U. Nyan Win (Myanmar), Mangala Samaraweera (Sri Lanka), Kantathi Suphamongkhon (Thailand), Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat (Nepal) and Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed.