Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on Tuesday said a lot is yet to be done to make the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, or Bimstec, a result oriented organization though there have been some significant achievements in economic advancement, social, and technological progress.
“Despite having huge potential, much remains unexploited,” he said, adding that the organization is yet to take off despite having huge potential for gains to bolster economic and social progress for the people of the region.
Mahmood was addressing the inaugural session of an event titled “Bimstec at Twenty: Towards Bay of Bengal Community” at the Secretariat of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) in the city.
Bimstec Secretary General M Shahidul Islam, representatives of Bimstec member states, members of academia, civil society, and think tanks were present at the event.
The foreign minister said intra-regional trade volume is only 7% while it can go up to 21% if efforts are accelerated and roadblocks are removed.
He said an enhanced level of trade and investment cooperation, connectivity, and energy cooperation would certainly generate employment opportunities and facilitate economic and social development for the region.
The foreign minister urged experts to focus on a much wider range of issues, challenges, and opportunities that affect the work of the Bimstec forum and to come out with fruitful but realistic suggestions and recommendations to policy makers to transform the Bimstec process into a result-oriented and mutually beneficial organization.
Mahmood Ali said the Bay of Bengal region has emerged as a common space for security and development.
He said Bangladesh has consistently engaged with member states in enhancing levels of cooperation in all 14 areas of cooperation, like liberalization and facilitation of trade, enhancing investment cooperation, strengthening cooperation in energy sectors, technology cooperation, increasing transport connectivity by rail-road, air, and sea.
He also mentioned enhancing people-to-people contact, combating terrorism and extremism to achieve collective security, dealing with the adverse effects of climate change, and disaster management, as areas of cooperation.
The foreign minister said Bangladesh, along with three other Bimstec members including Bhutan, Nepal, and Myanmar, are in the process of graduating from the LDC group which is a matter of immense pride.
“However, we will also face some immediate trade and economic challenges to sustain the momentum of development and progress we have made,” he said.
He said they have to find alternatives to the LDC Club and the Bimstec forum could be one such alternative.
“We can supplement the economic benefits and gains we made as LDC club members through rapid enhancement of economic cooperation under the Bimstec process,” he said.
The foreign minister said it is now imperative member states conclude all pending formalities to harness quick dividends from our cooperation in the Bimstec forum.