National Council rejects BBIN
The National Council (NC) rejected the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) trade agreement on November 15 during the ongoing winter session, stating that the agreement will not generate significant and tangible benefits to Bhutan.
However, according to the member-in-charge of BBIN, Foreign Affairs Minister, Damcho Dorji, Bhutan will miss an important opportunity to not only be an active member of BBIN but also the economic benefits of regional cooperation if the agreement is not passed by the NC.
Although previously approved by the National Assembly, BBIN motor vehicle agreement, which is expected to ease the rules and procedures for vehicles from these four countries while entering into each other’s territory and remove obstacles to intra-regional transport and trade, was rejected by the NC as it pointed out that the demerits of the BBIN agreement out-weighed its merits.
According to the Chairperson of the Legislative Committee, Sonam Wangchuk, BBIN agreement could affect the country’s culture, religion and economy and even pose security risks. However, Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said BBIN is not just about motor vehicle agreements. “It is the precursor to a lot of other bilateral cooperation in the fields of connectivity, energy, trade, ICT, transport, etc, which will be of immense benefit to Bhutan,” he said.
Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said the government would continue to work on the agreement so as to get it passed by the NC for which more time will be required.
The NC voted on the Agreement following thorough deliberations after its Legislative Committee pointed out its general as well as specific reservations on the Agreement. Of the 20 members present and voting, two members voted Yes, 13 voted No and five abstained from voting.
During the session, the NC pointed out that the country does not have space to accommodate heavy vehicles in Phuentsholing town and the government has not come up with plans to accommodate the existing number of heavy vehicles within the country.