Preferential trade agreement mooted for BIMST-EC

Friday, 20 December 2002, 08:00 Hrs
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COLOMBO: Foreign ministers of India and other BIMST-EC countries meeting here Friday will consider a proposal for a preferential trade agreement among the member states to boost trade ties.

The proposal has been mooted by the business forum of the BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand - Economic Cooperation), which met here ahead of the ministerial meet.

India's External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha is scheduled to attend the meeting.

Sri Lanka's Trade and Commerce Minister Ravi Karunanayake, who was chief guest at the inauguration of the BIMST-EC Business Forum, said that the Bay of Bengal littoral states bloc should go directly into a free trade agreement without spending time on preferential trade agreements.

Formalities often prevented opportunities from achieving results, he told IANS.

It was heartening to note that the business forum was keen to encourage the free flow of travel among member countries and to adopt collective stances as a group on issues relating to the World Trade Organization (WTO), he added.

The business forum decided to set up an interim secretariat at Colombo's National Chamber of Commerce and establish a BIMST-EC Chamber of Commerce and Industry and to undertake regular follow-up measures to facilitate trade and investment.

It also agreed to identify 10 crucially significant areas of cooperation among member states and enthusiastically welcomed a proposal to hold a trade exhibition and a business convention in August. The venue and the dates are to be decided.

Sri Lanka's national Chamber of Commerce's immediate past president Chandra Embuldeniya was appointed Chairman of the BIMST-EC Business Forum for the current year.

Set up in 1997, BIMST-EC focuses on enhancing cooperation in crucial areas like transportation links, trade, investment, tourism, fisheries and agriculture.

The grouping is expected to fill the vacuum in regional cooperation caused by the slow progress of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) due to differences between India and Pakistan.
Source: IANS
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