Early Bimstec pact will spur regional trade: Study

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) An early Free Trade Agreement (FTA) among the seven Bimstec nations around the Bay of Bengal would spur trade and enhance connectivity in the region, a study by an industry body said on Thursday.

“The FTA has to be signed soon by the seven member-countries to operationalise the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec), an international organisation, representing Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal,” the study by Association Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) flagged.

Though the South Asia and South East Asia regional bloc (Bimstec) came into being in July 2004, trade negotiations remained inconclusive as other instruments had overtaken them.

“Members of Bimstec have been struggling to negotiate a FTA over a decade by other instruments, which gained precedence,” said Preeti Saran, secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry, after releasing the study.

The study was jointly released by Saran and Bangladesh state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam at the seventh Assocham-Bimstec business forum here.

“Even as we strive to open our borders to free trade in goods. I think the potential for the future lies in investments in the services sector,” said Saran.

An early trade pact will also activate production links among member countries and help in rationalising non-tariff measures.

“What Bimstec needs is handholding and leadership to harness these resources for its own good,” noted the study of the Assocham.

The study also found that there was no need to liberalise trade and investment measures in services considering the lack of physical infrastructure in the region.



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