“I am very happy to note that the BIMSTEC Panel Discussion is happening in Mumbai. BIMSTEC is a great opportunity for people who are living in the region to work together and trade with rest of the world. India’s Prime Minister has recently attended the BIMSTEC Summit in Nepal. We feel that this is a huge market that can emerge for all the member countries in the region. This bloc will make sure that we share ideas and bring new business opportunities for each other. Therefore, I wish all the best to the organisers of this event,”said Shri. Suresh Prabhu, Hon’ble Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Government of India in his goodwill video message for a Panel Discussion on ‘Unlocking BIMSTEC Potential: Trade, Investment and Connectivity’. The Panel Discussion was organised jointly by All India Association of Industries (AIAI) and World Trade Centre Mumbai at WTC Mumbai.
Delivering the keynote address for this event, H.E. Mr. M. Shahidul Islam, Secretary General, BIMSTEC Secretariat said “In the backdrop of the recently concluded Fourth BIMSTEC Summit and renewed interest on BIMSTEC bloc, the subject matter of today’s discussion could not have been more timely. The world is watching BIMSTEC more closely than ever. There appears to be a growing consensus among member states that BIMSTEC should expedite the finalization of FTA related agreements. I am optimistic that BIMSTEC countries will be able to sign the Agreement on Trade in Goods and Customs Cooperation Agreement within 2019. BIMSTEC Leaders have also agreed to revitalise BIMSTEC Economic Forum and BIMSTEC Business Forum. It will be wise to include All India Association of Industries (AIAI) in BIMSTEC Business Forum.”
H.E. Mr. Islam invited private sector to take advantage of the regional integration efforts and explore trade and investment opportunities in BIMSTEC countries. “BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement and BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement are expected to open up huge investment opportunities. Private Sector may well gear up for taking the opportunity to investment and thus contributing to their share in BIMSTEC integration. BIMSTEC exporters are eligible for preferential tariffs subject to 35% value addition in one member state or 30% value addition in BIMSTEC region.”
At the Fourth BIMSTEC Summit, Leaders of the member countries have welcomed the offer of Government of India to host the BIMSTEC Ministerial Conclave at the Indian Mobile Congress 2018, being held at New Delhi from 25-27th October 2018 on the theme ‘New Digital Horizon: Connect, Create, Innovate’ and encourage all member states to participate in it, the Secretary General added.
The keynote address was followed by an interactive Panel Discussion moderated by Dr. Prabir De, Professor, Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS).
In his remarks, Dr. De said, “The recently held Fourth BIMSTEC Summit in Kathmandu ended with the most forward looking Declaration. The Declaration emphasised on the need to strengthen the institutional structure of the BIMSTEC Secretariat to spearhead regional integration in this bloc, whose collective economic size is set to reach USD 4 trillion.” Dr. De further remarked that the Bay of Bengal Co-operation is the foundation for the larger Indo-Pacific Co-operation.
Speaking on this occasion, Mr. Suresh Kumar, Chief Ship Surveyor, Directorate General of Shipping, Ministry of Shipping, Government of India remarked, “BIMSTEC countries will be signing an agreement and a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to operationalize the coastal shipping. Coastal shipping is cost effective compared to land and rail transport. Stronger maritime connectivity will spur global and regional value chains.”
Mr. Saugata Bhattacharya, Chief Economist, Axis Bank highlighted the significance ofregional cooperation in financial services. He said, “Collaboration in financial services can promote physical connectivity, commercial connectivity and people to people connectivity.”Specifically, Mr. Bhattacharya emphasised on collaboration in credit guarantee, trade credit, swap lines, harmonisation of accounting standards, secure payments mechanism and cross-country insolvency resolution mechanism. He also suggested the adoption of cutting edge technologies such as blockchain to reduce hassles of documentation in trade credit. BIMSTEC bloc must leverage India’s digital payment system, which is the most cost effective in the world. In order to harmonize financial regulations across BIMSTEC countries, there is a need for institutions such as Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC), Mr. Bhattacharya concluded.
Mr. Pratim Ranjan Bose, Chief of Bureau, The Hindu Business Line (Kolkata) suggested that the regional integration of BIMSTEC countries must involve India’s key states such as West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and North Eastern States in regional cooperation.” He emphasised on air connectivity between Myanmar and North Eastern States to support the development of healthcare sectors in the state. BIMSTEC countries must also set up a granular meteorological observatory in Bhutan, Nepal and North Eastern states of India. This will facilitate timely exchange of weather information and improve preparedness for climate-induced disasters. Bihar’s Bodh Gaya attracts lakhs of tourists from Buddhist nations in BIMSTEC bloc. Therefore, Government of Bihar must be responsible for safety, security, food and hygiene for the tourists.
Mr Sohail Jaria, Member-Executive Committee, Indo Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry,“The manufacturing sector of small BIMSTEC economies is dominated by low-end technology, which affects the efficiency of the value chain. Thus, large BIMSTEC countries must engage in capacity building in smaller member countries and ensure transfer of knowledge and technology through proactive rather than reactive measures. Start-ups and SMEs lack access to knowledge and market opportunities. We need to establish a network of SMEs through regional chambers of commerce for exchange of market intelligence and knowledge.”
Earlier in his welcome remarks, Mr. Vijay Kalantri, President All India Association of Industries (AIAI) and Vice Chairman, World Trade Centre Mumbai and said, “Today, Intra-BIMSTEC trade is hardly USD 40 billion and there is tremendous scope to enhance this. Unlike other regional blocs, member countries in the BIMSTEC are developing countries with huge complementarities. For instance, Thailand has competitive advantage in rice production, while India is competitive in information technology. India’s Prime Minister has visualised physical and digital connectivity. Digital connectivity is more important than in this age of digital revolution. BIMSTEC countries must also strengthen air connectivity among their state capitals to promote people-to-people contacts. BIMSTEC countries can benefit from collaboration in maritime connectivity and Blue economy. Most importantly, BIMSTEC countries must set up BIMSTEC Bank, on the lines of New Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Also, the EXIM Banks of the BIMSTEC countries must introduce credit lines to promote trade and investment. ”
Mr. Kalantri further suggested that All India Association of Industries (AIAI) and World Trade Centre Mumbai must be included in the BIMSTEC Business Forum to enhance commercial co-operation. “AIAI and WTC Mumbai are actively promoting regional co-operation initiatives such as SAARC and India-ASEAN. In November 2018, AIAI will associate with SAARC Chamber of Commerce in organising a business conference.”
Ms. Rupa Naik, Senior Director, World Trade Centre Mumbai proposed vote of thanks for the event.
The event was attended by representatives from trade and industry, government departments, diplomatic corps, academic and research institutions.
During the event, H.E. Mr. M. Shahidul Islam released the MVIRDC World Trade Centre Mumbai research publication titled ‘BIMSTEC – A Vibrant Economic Bloc’ along with other dignitaries. This research study brings forth the potential areas of cooperation among these seven countries through rigorous qualitative and quantitative analysis. The study highlights the scope for integration in trade and investment among the member countries. Further, the report stresses on the gains from collaborative actions in agriculture, manufacturing, trade in services, climate change mitigation, among others. The study also highlights the imperatives of physical connectivity, trade facilitation and customs co-operation to facilitate movement of people and goods across the borders.
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