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The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) members would focus on sectoral cooperation to fast track work in different areas, instead of waiting for a comprehensive trade agreement. "The members are moving towards sectoral cooperation approach, priotising and fast tracking areas, instead for waiting for complete trade agreement that comprises a total of 14 areas," Ministry of External Affairs' Joint Secretary (Bimstec and Saarc), Prashant Agrawal said here today. He was in city for 'Bimstec Expo', part of a consultation process of the ministry for greater involvement of states (local stakeholders) in the process. Bimstec is likely to finalise the motor vehicles and coastal shipping agreements in the next few months. "Right now, we are negotiating all the frameworks and also negotiating on a coastal shipping framework.
It is hoped to be finalised in the next few months," Agrawal said. Progress has been made in preparing the framework agreements on motor vehicles, coastal shipping, trade facilitation, mutual cooperation on customs matters and mutual legal assistance on criminal matters, officials said. Bimstec is a regional organisation, comprising seven member states - five from South Asia including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and two from Southeast Asia including Myanmar and Thailand. The 14 areas or sectors range from trade, transport, energy, communication to agriculture, climate change, tourism, poverty alleviation, security and others. Agarwal said India is taking lead in four areas which are transport, environment and disaster management, security and tourism. Among other points, a joint statement of Bimstec nations after the 15th Ministerial Meeting on August 11, had said, "We emphasise that enhanced transport and communication is the key to regional integration and agree to expedite comments and observations on the Bimstec Framework Agreement on Transit, Transshipment and Movement of Vehicular Traffic (Bimstec Motor Vehicle Agreement), as well as the Bimstec Coastal Shipping Agreement with a view to negotiate and conclude these at the earliest.
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