Bimstec leaders on Friday emphasised the importance of blue economy and agreed to cooperate in this sector for sustainable development of the region.
They decided to establish an Inter-governmental Expert Group to develop an action plan on blue economy, keeping in mind the special needs and circumstances of the landlocked Member States.
The Bimstec leaders noted with satisfaction the hosting of International Blue Economy Conference in Bangladesh in 2017 with the participation of government representatives from Bimstec Member States, according to an annex to the Fourth Bimstec Summit Declaration.
It came following the two-day 4th Summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) in Kathmandu, Nepal that endedon Friday.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Chief Advisor of Bhutan, the Prime Minister of India, the President of Myanmar, the Prime Minister of Nepal, the President of Sri Lanka, and the Prime Minister of Thailand attended the Summit.
The Bimstec leaders reiterated their commitment to the eradication poverty in the Bay of Bengal Region by 2030 in line with the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
They called for effective implementation of the Bimstec Poverty Plan of Action and for gearing up efforts of all sectors to contribute to the over-arching goal of poverty alleviation.
The Bimstec leaders expressed commitment to nurturing their workforce by taking concrete measures to provide decent job opportunities for them through increased investment in service and productive sectors of national economy.
Trade and Investment
They renewed their commitment to an early conclusion of Bimstec Free Trade Area (FTA) negotiations and direct the Bimstec Trade and Economic Ministerial Meeting (TEMM) and its subsidiary bodies, including the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) to expedite finalisation of all related agreements of the Bimstec FTA as early as possible.
They expressed their satisfaction on the progress of negotiation on the agreement on Trade in Goods and the Agreement on Customs Cooperation and direct respective ministries/agencies to participate regularly in TNC meetings.
They agreed to revitalise the activities of Bimstec Business Forum and Bimstec Economic Forum to further strengthen government-private sector cooperation for the promotion of trade and investment and task the expert group on Bimstec visa matters to continue negotiations for finalising modalities for the Bimstec Visa Facilitation.
They welcomed the offer of India to host a Bimstec Startup Conclave in December 2018 and encourage all Member States to participate in it.
They reiterated their resolve to establish seamless multimodal transportation linkages and smooth, synchronised and simplified transit facilities through the development, expansion and modernization of highways, railways, waterways, sea routes, airways in the region.
They decided to direct their respective authorities to speed up their efforts to conclude the Bimstec Coastal Shipping Agreement and the Bimstec Motor Vehicle Agreement as early as possible taking into account the special circumstances and needs of the Member States.
The Bimstec leaders noted with satisfaction the preparation of the draft Bimstec Master Plan on Transport Connectivity and called for its early adoption and thank the Asian Development Bank for providing support to prepare the Master Plan and task the Bimstec Transport Connectivity Working Group (BTCWG) to work out the modalities for its implementation, giving due attention to the special circumstances and needs of the Member States.
They agreed that the Master Plan would serve as a strategic document that guides actions and promotes synergy among various connectivity frameworks, such as the Asean Master Plan on Connectivity 2025 (MPAC 2025), the Ayeyawady - Chao Phraya- Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), to achieve enhanced connectivity and sustainable development in the region.
They decided to establish a Working Group to deal with information technology and communications related matters with a view to providing a greater access, more affordable and high-speed internet and mobile communications to the peoples of the region.
In this regard, they welcomed the offer of the Government of India to host a Bimstec Ministerial Conclave at the India Mobile Congress 2018 being held in New Delhi from 25-27 October 2018 on the theme "New Digital Horizons: Connect, Create, Innovate", and encourage all Member States to participate in it.
The leaders reiterated their position that terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.
They reaffirmed their strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed to taking appropriate measures in this regard.
Look forward to the signing of the Bimstec Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, they called upon the Member States for its early ratification and expressed satisfaction that many members have ratified the Bimstec Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking, and called upon the remaining members to do so.
They voiced their determination to strengthen cooperation and coordination among the law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies; and decide to hold meetings at the level of Bimstec Home Ministers and continue with the Bimstec National Security Chiefs meetings as part of promoting cooperation and coordination on counter-terrorism and transnational crimes.
Environment and Disaster Management
They encouraged closer cooperation in disaster management through sharing of information, including early warning system, adoption of preventive measures, rehabilitation and capacity building and agree to build on the existing capacities in the region and decide to establish an Inter-governmental Expert Group to develop a plan of action to improve preparedness and coordination for responding to natural disasters in the Bay of Bengal Region.
They expressed their serious concerns over environmental degradation, adverse impact of climate change and global warming on the fragile Himalayan and mountain ecosystems and their inter-linkages with the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean.
They resolved to strengthen cooperation to protect and preserve the environment to address, inter alia, the adverse impact of climate change on the lives and livelihoods of our peoples; explore the possibility to establish an Inter-governmental Expert Group to develop a plan of action for collective response to climate change for the region.
They reaffirmed their commitments to operationalise the Paris Agreement, in accordance with principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR & RC), taking into account different national circumstances and equity.
They recognised the high potentials of energy resources in the region, particularly renewable and clean energy sources, and agreed to expedite efforts to develop a comprehensive plan for energy cooperation by working closely with each other within the region.
The Bimstec leaders decided to constitute an intergovernmental group of experts to enhance energy cooperation, including in hydro-power and other sources of renewable energy.
Agreed to enhance cooperation for development, access and sharing of affordable technologies - including for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises for promoting sustainable development across sectors.
They welcomed the efforts of the Member States towards the signing of the Memorandum of Association on the Establishment of BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility in Sri Lanka.Also agree to focus cooperation in human resources development and education for the advancement of technology in the region, keeping in mind the need to address the disruptive impacts of technology
They decided to deepen cooperation in the agricultural and allied sectors, including crops, livestock and horticulture, farm machinery and harvest management so as to increase productivity and profitability of agricultural produce in a sustainable manner; task the relevant authorities to intensify cooperation to attain food and nutritional security.
They agreed to preserve and promote knowledge about traditional farming by appropriately linking both traditional and modern farming, and reducing costs, enhancing income and mitigating risks for farming communities, with the objective of facilitating agricultural trade among member countries and making contribution to the poverty alleviation, job creation, and improvement of quality of life of the masses in their nations.
The leaders resolved to build a deeper understanding and trust among Member States and promote people-to-people contacts at various levels.
They noted with satisfaction the activities of the Bimstec Network of Policy Think Tanks (BNPTT) in enhancing public awareness about Bimstec and direct the relevant agencies to finalise the terms of reference (ToR) of BNPTT.
They agreed to explore possibility of establishing appropriate Bimstec forums for parliamentarians, universities, academia, research institutes, cultural organisations and media community to expand the scope of people-to-people contacts.
Cultural cooperation, tourism and mountain economy came up in a broader way for discussion.