Bimstec committee mulls free trade deal in Dhaka

- Rajesh Khanal, Kathmandu

Nov 13, 2018-

Dhaka will host the 21st meeting of trade negotiating committee, under the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec), on November 18.

The meeting in the capital of Bangladesh will give final shape to Bimstec Free Trade Area Framework Agreement (BFTAFA) policy.

The Bimstec comprises Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand as its members.

The BFTAFA will promote, facilitate and enhance intra-regional trade. It would benefit a landlocked country like Nepal.

The free area is a trade bloc involving co-operation between member countries to reduce trade barriers-import quotas and tariffs-in order to increase trade of goods and services with each other.

Senior officials at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies said the joint-secretary level meeting would finalise the BFTAFA.

Ministry Joint-secretary Rabi Shankar Sainju will lead the Nepali delegation at the meeting in Dhaka.

“The meeting will focus on the agenda of finalising the BFTAFA in order to remove various barriers among the member countries to boost trade,” said the officials.

The free trade agenda was on high priority during the 4th Bimstec Summit held in Kathmandu on August 30.

The framework agreement for BFTAFA was agreed in 2004, which includes-tariff concessions on trade in goods, customs cooperation, and trade in services, investment cooperation and dispute settlement.

Twenty rounds of negotiations have already taken place under trade negotiating committee to finalise four draft agreements-Trade in goods, Protocol to amend Framework Agreement on Bimstec FTA, Dispute Settlement Procedures and Mechanism, and Co-operation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters.

Among these four draft agreements, agreement on Trade in Goods is expected

to be signed at the Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting in Bangladesh, officials said. Apart from BFTAFA, the meeting will also discuss the six major areas of trade promotions among the member countries.

The six major areas include rules of origin, trade in service, investment, legal experts, customs cooperation and trade facilitation.

Bimstec is also mulling to enhance co-operation to expand skills and technology of member countries through collaboration. The collaboration will boost growth of micro, small and medium scale enterprises of the region. As of 2014, Bimstec held about 3.7 percent share of total global trade.

The last trade negotiating committee meeting was held in Bangkok in 2015.

Published: 13-11-2018 07:53

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