KATHMANDU, Aug 11: The 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting of Bay of Bengal Initiatives for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) concluded Friday with agreement to conclude BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Agreement and BIMSTEC Grid Ineterconnection at the earliest.
Organizing a press conference at his office on Friday afternoon, Minister for Foreign Affairs Krishna Bahadur Mahara said the meeting reviewed the progress made so far and discussed ways to make the sub-regional body more effective in the days ahead. "Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has expressed commitment to make this body as effective as possible," he said.
Although the meeting planned to conclude BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Agreement and BIMSTEC Grid Ineterconnection, this could not happen as differences persisted among some member states on the agreements. "We recognize paramount importance of early conclusion of BIMSTEC Free Trade Area and direct the trade negotiating committee and working groups to expedite the finalization of its constituent agreements," said the joint statement issued after the Kathmandu meeting.
Likewise, Nepal has proposed hosting BIMSTEC energy ministers in Kathmandu early next year. The Ministerial Meeting is expected to finalize the BIMSTEC Grid Ineterconnection and other issues related to energy. The Ministerial Meeting has also agreed to endorse and sign in the regional instruments to curb cross border terrorism and control other crimes in the region. "The meeting has decided to form eminent persons group to chart its new strategies of BIMSTEC," Minister Mahara told media persons.
The Ministerial Meeting has decided to expedite the negotiations on the Agreement on services and Investment to augment economic cooperation in the region and work for the early finanization of the BIMSTEC Trade Facilitation Agreement. Bangladesh has offered to host the first meeting of the Working Group to negotiate the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the sixth Trade and Economic Ministers' Meeting and the Eighth Meeting of the BIMSTEC Business Forum in 2017.
BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting adopted the Reports of the 17th and 18th Session of BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meetings (SOM) held in Kathmandu. Nepal to host BIMSTEC Summit at convenient time of member states.
The plan of Nepal to host the fourth BIMSTEC summit by the end of 2017 has fallen uncertain as preparations are underway to hold provincial and federal elections in Nepal. During the ministerial meeting, Nepal could not propose any specific date for hosting the event in view of the upcoming elections, according to officials.
"Given the preparations of the government to hold provincial and federal elections within the constitutional deadline of January, 2018, we thought that it is not good idea to propose any specific date," said an official, asking not to be named. Nepal will propose date of the event later and finalize it as per the convenience of other BIMSTEC member states. Islam is next Secretary General of BIMSTEC
The BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting on Friday appointed Bangladesh's candidate M Shahidul Islam as the next Secretary General of BIMSTEC for a period of three years. Islam is currently serving as the ambassador of Bangladesh to France. Islam will succeed Sumit Nakandala, who assumed the charge of the Secretary General on August 10, 2014.