NEW DELHI, Aug 9 (UNB): Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan Wednesday placed a six-point agenda of action to push forward the BIMSTEC and called for flexibility to implement the group's proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Speaking shortly after handing over the Chairmanship of the seven-nation grouping to India at its ninth ministerial meeting here, Khan said, "At the last ministerial meeting, we were hopeful that the negotiation on the FTA would be concluded in time so that the FTA could come into force as stipulated on July 1, 2006."
He said, "Clearly, we have missed that deadline. Given the current state of negotiation, my fear is that unless all our countries demonstrate further flexibility, we may fail to see the larger canvass and appreciate that the FTA would mark the first major and visible undertaking among member states directly benefiting the common people."
The ministerial meeting adopted a joint statement, which highlighted trade and investment, energy cooperation, counter-terrorism, public health, cultural exchange and people-to-people contact.
The meeting decided to hold the second summit of the BIMSTEC in New Delhi next year on February 6-8.
He stressed the need for a BIMSTEC charter to enhance collaboration in a systematic manner among its members Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
"BIMSTEC must be able to deliver and make a difference in the lives of the common people," the foreign minister said, calling for setting goals and targets to be achieved during the second decade of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
As Bangladesh is the lead country in BIMSTEC for the trade and investment sector, Khan emphasised that all countries should demonstrate flexibility to accommodate genuine concerns of each other to ensure equitable trade under a free trade regime. Khan conveyed Bangladesh's decision to host the first-ever BIMSTEC Cultural Festival in Dhaka next year. The BIMSTEC cultural ministers are expected to hold their second meeting in Dhaka at that time.
The BIMSTEC ministers agreed to expedite the negotiations on BIMSTEC FTA.