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Press Release > Connectivity can
help BIMSTEC harvest its true economic potential
“Connectivity can help
BIMSTEC harvest its true economic potential”: Commerce Secretary of
July 11, 2017, Geneva
of the Sixth Global Review of Aid for Trade, CUTS International
organised a side event titled “Enhancing Connectivity in the Bay of
Bengal Region and Beyond”. This year’s Review focuses on the
promotion of Trade, Inclusiveness and Connectivity for Sustainable
Development. The main question addressed in this session is how
transport and transit initiatives can enhance intra-regional trade.
“Connectivity can help BIMSTEC harvest its true economic potential,”
said Naindra Prasad Upadhaya, the Commerce Secretary of Nepal. A
number of existing transport and transit initiatives in the Bay of
Bengal Region have implications for trade inclusiveness and
sustainable development through the reduction in time and cost of
doing trade. He argued that connectivity is one of the major
vehicles to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and this can be
done through enhancing the linkages between physical and digital
connectivity as the latter allows, for instance, small and medium
enterprises to meet trade-related standards.
Chairing the session, Shamika Sirimanne, Director of the Division on
Technology and Logistics of the United Nations Conference on Trade
and Development, underlined why connectivity should be the key
driver of intra-regional trade and investment and that various forms
of connectivity should work in tandem in order get maximum benefits
out of them.
Bipul Chatterjee, the Executive director of CUTS International,
reviewed the existing initiatives such as BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan,
India, Nepal) Motor Vehicles Agreement and presented the CUTS
connectivity project on enabling an inclusive policy and political
economy discourse for trade, transport and transit facilitation in
and among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Myanmar. He
underlined some strategic issues such as misalignment among multiple
initiatives, institutional and regulatory connectivity gaps
hindering an effective regional connectivity.
Kazem Asayesh, Senior Advisor on TIR and Trade facilitation in the
International Road Transport Union, focused on the importance of the
TIR Convention, which is a globally agreed transit system, in
enhancing physical connectivity among countries of the Bay of Bengal
Region. He addressed the issue of the efficient implementation of
the transport agreements, since in so many cases those agreements
remain on paper. He suggested that a major reason behind their
implementation is the lack of guarantee mechanisms, which give
guarantee to the customs for duties and taxes. The TIR system
provides such guarantee mechanisms.
Furthermore, and admitting that administrative procedures are an
important barrier toward an efficient trade performance, Yann Duval,
Chief of the Trade Facilitation Unit in the Trade, Investment and
Innovation Division of the United Nations Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacific, underlined the importance of
the UNESCAP cross-border electronic trade facilitation initiative.
It consists of using electronic documents instead of papers in
cross-border administrative procedures. While this paperless
initiative aims to facilitate trade and decrease administrative
impediments by unifying different countries’ data and improving
trade compliance, challenges remain due to the lack of legal
recognition of electronic documents.
In her presentation, Tran T T Hang of the Enhanced Integrated
Framework Secretariat explained the work the EIF is dong in the
BIMSTEC region and the possible areas of a regional-level
collaboration through analytical works, project formulation, policy
and support mechanisms through exiting projects. She also suggested
doing regional diagnostic studies for more effective utilization of
the EIF support..
Kamalinne Pinitpuvadol, the Executive Director of the International
Institute for Trade and Development in Thailand, focused on the role
of Thailand and Myanmar in promoting connectivity in the region. He
raised issues such as the importance of effective enforcement,
Marcus Bartley Johns of the World Bank Group focused on the lessons
learnt from regional connectivity initiatives in other regions such
as East Asia. He suggested that the national and the regional
efforts must be aligned to ensure connectivity through cross-border
collaboration and reminded that connectivity must be addressed in an
inclusive manner and through the perspectives of poverty reduction.
Pranav Kumar, Head of the International Trade Policy Division of the
Confederation of Indian Industry, gives the voice of the private
sector by raising questions regarding the coordination mechanisms
linking connectivity initiatives and the need to generate financial
resources as a main challenge toward developing infrastructure.
Finally, Mr Chatterjee concluded the session by raising the question
about the impact of connectivity initiatives on people and argued
that unless there is local buy-in for such initiatives their true
potential may not be realised.
For more information, please contact:
Rashid S Kaukab,