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Bimstec leaders to cooperate on blue economy for sustainable development

  • Published at 12:46 am September 1st, 2018
BIMSTEC
From left to right, Myanmar’s first lady Daw Cho Cho, Nepal’s first lady Radhika Shakya, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena, Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, Myanmar’s President Win Myint, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice as well as Chief Adviser of the interim government of Bhutan Dasho Tshering Wangchuk and Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pose for a group photo during the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) summit in Kathmandu on Friday REUTERS

The declaration followed the 4th Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) held in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Thursday and Friday

Leaders of the Bay of Bengal regional group on Friday emphasized the importance of the blue economy and agreed to cooperate in this sector for the sustainable development of the region.

The declaration followed the 4th Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) held in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Thursday and Friday, reports UNB.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was among a a high level delegation to the summit which also included the prime ministers of India, Nepal, and Thailand, the presidents of Myanmar and Sri Lanka, and the chief adviser of Bhutan.

Together, the leaders agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Expert Group to develop an action plan on the blue economy, keeping in mind the special needs and circumstances of Bhutan and Nepal - the two landlocked Bimstec member states.

The move follows the successful hosting of the International Blue Economy Conference by Bangladesh in 2017, when Bimstec member states were present. 

In Nepal, the Bimstec leaders also reiterated their commitment to the eradication poverty in the Bay of Bengal Region by 2030, in line with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

They called for effective implementation of the Bimstec Poverty Plan of Action, and for gearing up efforts of all sectors to contribute to the overarching goal of poverty alleviation.

The Bimstec leaders also expressed commitment to nurturing their workforce, by taking concrete measures to provide decent job opportunities through increased investment in the service and productive sectors.

Trade and investment 

The leaders renewed their commitment to an early conclusion of Bimstec Free Trade Area (FTA) negotiations.

They directed the Bimstec Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting (TEMM) and its subsidiary bodies, including the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC), to finalize all related agreements of the Bimstec FTA as early as possible.

They expressed their satisfaction with the progress of negotiation on the agreement on Trade in Goods and the Agreement on Customs Cooperation, and directed respective ministries/agencies to regularly in TNC meetings regularly.

They also agreed to revitalize the activities of the Bimstec Business Forum and Bimstec Economic Forum, and tasked the expert group on Bimstec visa matters to continue negotiations for finalizing modalities for the Bimstec Visa Facilitation.

They welcomed the offer of India to host a Bimstec Startup Conclave in December 2018, and encouraged all member states to participate.

Connectivity

The Bimstec leaders reiterated their resolve to establishing seamless multimodal transportation links and smooth, synchronized and simplified transit facilities.

They decided to direct their respective authorities to speed up their efforts to conclude the Bimstec Coastal Shipping Agreement and the Bimstec Motor Vehicle Agreement as soon as possible.

The leaders noted with satisfaction the preparation of the draft Bimstec Master Plan on Transport Connectivity and called for its early adoption, and thanked the Asian Development Bank for providing support for the preparation of the Master Plan. 

They agreed that the Master Plan would serve as a strategic document that guides actions and promotes synergy among various connectivity frameworks, such as the Asean Master Plan on Connectivity 2025 (MPAC 2025), the Ayeyawady - Chao Phraya- Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS).

The leaders also decided to establish a Working Group to deal with information technology and communications related matters, with a view to providing the people of the region with a greater access to more affordable and high-speed internet and mobile communications.

In this regard, they welcomed the offer of the Government of India to host a Bimstec Ministerial Conclave at the India Mobile Congress 2018, to be held in New Delhi from October 25-27. The theme of the conclave will be “New Digital Horizons: Connect, Create, Innovate”. 

Transnational crime

The leaders reiterated their position that terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.

They reaffirmed their strong commitment to combating terrorism in all forms, and agreed to take appropriate measures in this regard.

Furthermore, the leaders called upon member states to work towards the early ratification of the Bimstec Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. 

In addition, the leaders decided to hold meetings at the level of Bimstec Home Ministers, and continue with the Bimstec National Security Chiefs meetings.

Environment and disaster management

The Bimstec leaders encouraged closer cooperation in disaster management through the sharing of information, including on early warning systems, preventive measures, rehabilitation and capacity building. 

They also decided to establish an Intergovernmental Expert Group to develop a plan of action to improve preparedness and coordination for responding to natural disasters in the Bay of Bengal region.

Climate change 

The leaders expressed serious concern over environmental degradation and the adverse impact of climate change.

They explored the possibility of establishing an Intergovernmental Expert Group to develop a plan of action for a collective response to climate change.

They also reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement on dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, starting in the year 2020.

Energy

The leaders recognized the high potential of energy resources in the region, particularly renewable and clean energy sources.

They decided to constitute an intergovernmental group of experts to enhance energy cooperation, including in hydro-power and other sources of renewable energy.

Technology 

The Bimstec leaders agreed to enhance cooperation for the development of, access to and sharing of affordable technology, particularly for micro, small and medium enterprises.

However, they said the need to address the disruptive impacts of technology should be kept in mind.  

They also welcomed the efforts of member states towards the signing of the Memorandum of Association on the establishment of Bimstec Technology Transfer Facility in Sri Lanka. 

Agriculture

The leaders decided to deepen cooperation in agricultural and allied sectors, including crops, livestock and horticulture, farming machinery, and harvest management. 

They tasked the relevant authorities with intensifying cooperation with the aim of attaining food and nutritional security.

People-to-people contacts

The leaders resolved to build a deeper understanding and trust between member states, and promote people-to-people contacts at various levels.

They noted with satisfaction the activities of the Bimstec Network of Policy Think Tanks (BNPTT) in enhancing public awareness about Bimstec, and directed the relevant agencies to finalize the terms of reference (ToR) of BNPTT.

They agreed to explore the possibility of establishing appropriate Bimstec forums for parliamentarians, universities, academia, research institutes, cultural organisations, and the media community, to expand the scope of people-to-people contacts.