Ukraine crisis has exacerbated BIMSTEC’s economic problems: Lekphell

Secretary General of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Tenzin Lekphell, said the Ukraine crisis has exacerbated economic problems in BIMSTEC and members should prioritize the conclusion of the free trade agreement, to the successful implementation of the projects identified. in the transport connectivity master plan and the establishment of a BIMSTEC development fund.

Addressing the webinar on 25 Years of BIMSTEC: Opportunities and Challenges in the Post-COVID 19 Era, Lekphell highlighted the importance of trade facilitation cooperation among member countries, noting that measures such as a single window for customs and paperless trade will help to reduce trade costs and improve cross-border activities and, in this context, hoped that the agreements under negotiation such as the BIMSTEC Agreement on cabotage and BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement would be expedited.

Lekphell said COVID-19 has highlighted the need for collective response protocols and mechanisms among member countries to prepare for future pandemics.

Speaking during the webinar, Rudrendra Tandon, Additional Secretary (BIMSTEC and SAARC), Ministry of External Affairs, GoI said that the immense challenges in realizing the untapped potential of intra-BIMSTEC trade and investment should not not be underestimated. He suggested that a “smaller and more practical approach” such as trade facilitation cooperation and transport connectivity would be more beneficial.

The webinar was organized by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) in collaboration with NITI Aayog and the Indian office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS).

As BIMSTEC celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2022, the webinar was part of a series of policy-focused dialogues initiated by ICRIER to assess achievements, identify areas where it has underperformed and consider the way forward. with a focus on three interconnected themes – trade and investment, transport connectivity and trade facilitation and energy cooperation.

Other prominent speakers in the webinar were Badri Narayanan Gopalakrishnan, Head of Trade, Trade and Strategic Economic Dialogue, NITI Aayog, Posh Raj Pandey, President, SAWTEE, Nepal, Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, Center for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh, Anushka Wijesinha, Economist and Co-Founder, Center for a Smart Future, Sri Lanka and Piti Srisangnam, Director of Academic Affairs, ASEAN Studies Center, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.

There was a general consensus among the panelists that the BIMSTEC FTA should be a priority among member countries in the current geopolitical situation and that painful national adjustments must be undertaken for the greater good.

Members should engage more with each other and focus on comprehensive economic partnership with special emphasis on strengthening MSME cooperation as well as cross-collaborations between the trade and investment agenda and the technology and investment.

It was also suggested that the current crisis in Sri Lanka shows that it is time for BIMSTEC countries to put in place mechanisms for macroeconomic monitoring and currency exchange.

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