Chittagong, Bangladesh: Bangladesh, China, India and Burma (Myanmar), which make up the BCIM Forum held in Dhaka urged governments to remove trade barriers for greater economic cooperation in the region in accordance with the fast-changing global and regional dynamics as well as to promote multimodal connectivity through rail-road-water and air linkages within the region. The BCIM countries could gain significantly from trade and transit corridors, according to joint statement of BCIM.
A 12-point joint statement issued at the end of the Forum –The 11th BCIM- on February 24 at BRAC Inn, Dhaka, hosted by Centre of Policy Dialogue (CPD) with representatives – CPD executive director Mustafizur Rahman, Centre for Policy Research (CPR, India) governing body member Eric Gonsalves, Vice Governor of Yunnan Province in China Ju Kong and Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh U Myo Myint Than, signed on behalf of their respective countries.
BCIM Forum cover 9 percent of the world’s area, 40 percent of the population and 7.3 percent of the global GDP. Thus the cooperation of the four countries is of great importance to their own economic growth as well as its reflection on the world economy, said Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), in his keynote speech.
“Trade between BCIM countries reached 4.5 percent in 2010, when it is over 35 percent between ASEAN countries.”
“Developing transport connectivity, particularly multimodal system, is the key here,” Ahmed said, adding that opportunities of reaping benefits of good rail, water and road linkages within the region remain widely untapped.
“The multimodal transport system is necessary to explore new business corridors and opportunities,” said Umesh Chowdhary, vice-chairman and managing director of Titagarh Wagons, an Indian company.
Many businesspersons from the participating countries have echoed Chowdhury’s demand for a BCIM Forum was initiated in 1999 in Kunming, as part of an initiative by the civil society organizations of the four countries to explore opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation.
Rokia Afzal Rahman, president of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the BCIM countries can enhance their businesses manifold by using Bangladesh’s two ports — Chittagong and Mongla.
“This sub-region can be a potential business bloc,” she said, while urging India, China and Myanmar to come up with investments in Bangladesh, which has abundance of cheap labor.
Li Ana, senior staff member of Yunnan Branch of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, emphasized the need for promoting connectivity between the regional connectivity to boost trade and investment.
Burmese Ambassador to Bangladesh U Myo Myint Than said, “With the help of the Dhaka Declaration there will be multi-track cooperation among countries of the BCIM region.”
“It’ll contribute to economic development in the region and help the member countries to attain higher GDP growth rate and accelerate poverty alleviation.”
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, in his speech as the chief guest, said the South Asian (SA) and the neighboring countries need to overcome the dangers of poverty, ‘communalism’ and nuclear weapons through strengthening the regional, sub-regional cooperation.
Pointing out the factor that poverty, ‘communalism’ and nuclear weapons are the three common ‘bombs’ that are being hatched in the South Asia, the Information Minister stressed that the SA and the neighbouring countries should move forward to tackle the challenges through better connectivity and cooperation.
The programme was presided over by CPD trustee board member Syed Monzur Elahi.
The BCIM Forum originated in 1999 from an initiative by a number of institutions of the four participating countries, inspired by an ambition to promote the cause of closer cooperation, according to UNB – United News of Bangladesh.