BIMSTEC trade experts ended a six-day meeting Dhaka Saturday expressing hope that they would hopefully complete negotiations by the end of December for a free trade deal among its members scheduled for July 2006.
The trade negotiation committee (TNC) meeting of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) held on October 10-15 discussed the draft agreement on trade in goods.
During the meeting, the experts have tried to iron out the issues related to rules of origin (ROO), negative list of products and dispute settlement mechanism.
They also discussed anti-dumping and safeguard measures in line with the existing World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and regulations to protect the interest of the least development member countries of the BIMSTEC.
Delegates, attending the eighth round of negotiations, said the rate of progress was good and that 'we have come closer to a consensus' on how to lead the member countries into a free trade agreement (FTA).
"We have achieved a lot of progress at different stages of negotiations at the Dhaka meeting," a senior Bangladesh official, who attended the meeting, told the FE Saturday, adding that the negotiators were hopeful of accomplishing their tasks within the stipulated time.
The next expert level BIMSTEC meeting will be held in New Delhi November 7-13 while the concluding meeting of the year will be held in Nepalese capital -- Kathmandu -- in December 21-26.
Sources, however, said some 25 per cent of the entire 5,300 tradable products have been put in the negative list and that it included a good number of similar goods as well.
The negative list will be shortened in the near future, the sources believed.
On October 10, Commerce Secretary Faruq Ahmad Siddiqi formally inaugurated the meeting at a local hotel in the city where 54 senior officials from its member countries attended.
The BIMSTEC nations -- Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan - have agreed to intensify trade and commerce among the member countries.
The inter-regional grouping (BIMSTEC) will serve as a bridge between the five SAARC countries and two ASEAN countries.
According to the trade experts, the BIMSTEC will have a greater potential to increase the trade volume among member countries by taking advantage of their geographical location in the region of the Bay of Bengal and the Eastern coast of the Indian Ocean.