“It will be an opportunity to refresh and renew their commitment to strengthen the BIMSTEC Process in all respects,” he said.

At the impending BIMSTEC Summit, Alam said, a substantive number of issues are expected to be high on the agenda of the leaders for their consideration and adoption.

Another fundamental area of cooperation and a much-needed element of regional integration is the implementation of ‘BIMSTEC Free Trade Area’, said the state minister while addressing the “Bay of Bengal Economic Forum 2022” as the chief guest on Friday.

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) organised the event virtually moderated by professor Selim Raihan, executive director of SANEM.

State minister Alam said though the Framework Agreement on the FTA was signed in 2004 much remained to be done to implement the FTA due to lack of progress in finalization and conclusion of six constituent legal instruments.

Despite Covid-19 impediments, he said, two important documents like the ‘Constituent Agreement on Trade in Goods’ and the ‘Text on BIMSTEC Rules of Origin’ are almost at the final stage. “These two documents are fundamental to start operation of FTA,” Shahriar Alam added.

Once concluded, the state minister said, tariff-free trade in goods can start among the member states.

Bangladesh as the lead country for trade and investment sector under BIMSTEC is seized with early conclusion of other required agreements and MoU under FTA like Customs Cooperation Agreement, Agreement on Trade in Service, Agreement on Trade Facilitation, Protocol on Amendment of the FTA, he said.

“We need whole-hearted support from all member states. Bangladesh on its part is fully committed to do everything necessary to implement the FTA sooner than later,” he said.

To make a resilient Bay of Bengal Region as desired, he said, all sectors of the BIMSTEC process are required to be fully functional and operational to produce optimum results and sustainable benefits for our peoples in the Bay of Bengal region.

State minister Alam said they need to bolster engagements in the areas of energy cooperation, agriculture cooperation and disaster management under BIMSTEC and bring synergy among them and to facilitate trade, investment and connectivity cooperation and vice versa.

“While our leaders are committed towards this direction through their political will and directives, we need to build partnership among all stakeholders to move their visions forward,” he said.

Shahriar Alam said BIMSTEC is expecting to get a Charter after 25 years of its establishment. “We’re also expecting a quarter dozen legal instruments to be concluded during the Summit.”

With the conclusion of these four legal instruments, the number of essential legal documents will be raised to 13, he said.

These documents are fundamental software for operation and functioning of the BIMSTEC Process which has been moving at a slow pace since its inception in 1997, he added.

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