Press briefing on the 16th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting

Press briefing on the 16th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting
29 August 2018, Kathmandu

Dear friends from the Media
Good Evening to you all.

  • I welcome you all to this briefing. I begin by thanking you for the continuous cooperation ever since we began engaging in the BIMSTEC Summit process.

  • Today, I am here to brief you on the Sixteenth BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting that successfully concluded today. The Meeting was chaired by Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Hon. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. The Meeting was held in an atmosphere of utmost cordiality and spirit of cooperation.

  • As you all know, the Meeting was preceded by the Nineteenth Session of the BIMSTEC Senior Officials’ Meeting which was held yesterday. You have already been briefed about the outcomes of the Senior Officials’ Meeting.

  • The Meeting was attended by:

  1. Foreign Minister of People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Hon. Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali;

  2. Foreign Secretary of the Royal Government of Bhutan, H.E. Ambassador Sonam Tshong;

  3. Minister of State for External Affairs of the Republic of India, Gen. Dr. V.K. Singh;

  4. Union Minister for International Cooperation of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Hon. U Kyaw Tin;

  5. Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, Hon. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali;

  6. State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Hon. Basantha Senanyake;

  7. Foreign Minister of Kingdom of Thailand, Hon. Don Pramudvinai.

  • The Meeting began with the country statements by the Foreign/External Affairs Ministers and the Heads of Delegation.

  • In his opening remarks, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali stated that the BIMSTEC is a unique regional platform because of its history, geographical contiguity, great civilizational links and existence of potentials that can contribute to transform it into a prosperous region.

  • The Foreign Minister highlighted the challenges of poverty, hunger, backwardness, inequality, natural disasters, environmental degradation, terrorism, organized crimes, illicit drugs and human trafficking and called for a serious introspection on the part of all.

  • Foreign Minister Hon. Gyawali also stressed on the need to deepen rather than proliferate areas of cooperation and called for rationalizing the priority areas and focus on connectivity, trade, tourism, energy, and agriculture.

  • The Foreign Minister called for early conclusion of negotiations under the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement, expressed satisfaction that a master-plan on transport connectivity is being developed, MOU on grid interconnections will be signed, and called for defeating terrorism and combat other transnational crimes.

  • The Ministerial Meeting reviewed the whole gamut of cooperation under the BIMSTEC and decided to further consolidate regional cooperation process. The Ministers reiterated their commitments to make BIMSTEC process more effective and result oriented.

  • The meeting considered report of the Secretary General of BIMSTEC. In his report, the Secretary General highlighted the progress of BIMSTEC in terms of setting up institutions, laying down legal framework, initiating project-based cooperation, facilitating capacity building and knowledge sharing, and enhancing contacts and exchanges at various levels among Member States.

  • He underlined that the establishment of (a) BIMSTEC Permanent Secretariat in Bangladesh; (b) BIMSTEC Cultural Industries Observatory (BCIO) in Bhutan; and (c) BIMSTEC Centre for Weather and Climate (BCWC) in India as some of key achievements in terms of institutional development.

  • He also reported that efforts are underway to operationalize BIMSTEC Energy Centre (BEC) in India and BIMSTEC Technology Transfer Facility (TTF) in Sri Lanka.

  • The Secretary General reported that the Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) has held 20 rounds of negotiation to operationalize BIMSTEC Free Trade Area Framework Agreement. As you may know that BIMSTEC FTA was signed in 2004.

  • The Secretary General reported the progress made to finalize the draft texts of a few new agreements:

  1. Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters,

  2. BIMSTEC Motor Vehicle Agreement,

  3. BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement, and

  4. The draft text of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

These proposed agreements are in different stages of consultation among the Member States.

  • He reported that the Member States are developing BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Master Plan with the target to complete it by the end of September 2018.

  • The Ministers reviewed the progress in priority areas of cooperation since holding of the Fifteenth BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting held in Kathmandu, Nepal in August last year.

  • The Foreign Secretary of Nepal in his capacity as Chair of the Senior Officials’ Meeting presented the Report of the Special Session of the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) held in Kathmandu on the 11th of this month and the Report of the Nineteenth Session of the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting held yesterday. The Meeting considered and endorsed the reports.

  • The Ministers endorsed the text of draft Summit Declaration and recommended that to the Leaders of the BIMSTEC Member States for approval.

  • The Ministers expressed their readiness to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection. As you all know that Senior Official’s Meeting yesterday had recommended the final text of the MOU for signature during the Summit.

  • While appreciating the progress achieved in the past, the Ministers resolved to take more vigorous steps for more focused implementation of the activities of the organization. They felt the need for rationalization of priority areas and focusing on core economic sectors to make BIMSTEC more effective, result-oriented and to enhance its visibility.

  • As per the BIMSTEC practice, the Foreign Minister of Nepal handed over the Chairmanship of the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting to the State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka. The Ministers appreciated Sri Lanka for acceptance to assume the next Chairmanship of BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting.

  • The Meeting also discussed on the status of the progress and achievement in the fourteen areas of cooperation under BIMSTEC.

  • The leaders of the delegation urged for the early operationalization of the established mechanisms and BIMSTEC Centers.

  • The Seventeenth Ministerial Meeting will be held in Sri Lanka.

  • Thank you very much for your kind attention.