Thailand’s envoy to India expressed disappointment that the Free Trade Agreement which the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) partners negotiated back in 2004 is yet be concluded.
“I am disappointed that I haven’t been able to make key people sit together. People in bureaucracy get moved to new jobs. Trade negotiation meetings need to be held and people need to talk rather than just posture,” Chutintorn Gongsakdi said, speaking exclusively to CNBC TV18.
Chutintorn indicated that conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement was still some time away. He explained that one of the reasons for the delay was India’s demand for a proposal different from one agreed upon in 2015. “In Kathmandu we will talk about things we can agree on and we will talk about an early harvest in some areas to build confidence," he said.
This year BIMSTEC nations have agreed to narrow down discussions to five cooperation areas instead of fourteen. Talking about key deliverables, the Thai envoy said, “main deliverables would be to reform, have political messages on connectivity, FTA and counter terrorism. There could be agreements on grid connectivity, cooperation between diplomatic institutions and technology transfer.”
Chutintorn said that BIMSTEC partners need to immediately focus on granting more market access to each other and increasing connectivity. When asked whether Thailand was satisfied with the level of connectivity between the BIMSTEC grouping he said, “Of course not. You need connectivity to provide to small and medium term enterprises, people in remote areas. We are not talking about multinational corporations. We need people to think in a regional frame of mind.”
The BIMSTEC summit will take place on 30th and 31st of August in Kathmandu, Nepal. PM Modi will be traveling for the two day summit and will have several bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the event. BIMSTEC or the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation is a seven nation grouping comprising of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
Formed on 6th June 1997, BIMSTEC comprises of 1.5 billion people, 22 percent of the world population and a combined GDP of 2.7 trillion.