PRO­MOTE RE­GIONAL IN­TE­GRA­TION AND TRADE

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, diplo­mats and in­dus­try ex­perts from In­dia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka re­it­er­ated the need to im­prove re­gional trade, re­move trade bar­ri­ers and pro­mote re­gional in­te­gra­tion

Maritime Gateway - - Contents -

The se­cond South Asia Mar­itime and Lo­gis­tics Fo­rum brings to­gether gov­ern­ments, trade as­so­ci­a­tion and in­dus­tries in South Asian re­gion in con­tact with lead­ing busi­nesses from Eu­rope, Mid­dle East and South East Asia. It will help in tech­nol­ogy trans­fer, de­vel­op­ment of lo­gis­tics, mar­itime re­la­tions and green ship­ping, an­nounced Md. Ab­dus Sa­mad, Sec­re­tary, Min­istry of Ship­ping, Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Bangladesh, giv­ing the au­di­ence a fair idea of what the pro­ceed­ings and dis­cus­sions of the two day event will fruc­tify.

Go­ing back into the mem­ory lane, Ab­dus Sa­mad re­called the sig­nif­i­cance given by Fa­ther of the Na­tion, Bangla Bandhu Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man, to the mar­itime sec­tor, as he re­mem­bered the fa­mous quote by Bangla Bandhu - “The im­por­tance of end­less sea re­sources.” Among the sev­eral con­tri­bu­tions of Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man to his mother land is the Ter­ri­to­rial Wa­ter and Mar­itime Zones Act 1974 en­acted for the first time in the his­tory of Bangladesh, which also es­tab­lished the coun­try’s sov­er­eign right over the sea and its re­sources. Bangla Bandhu also pro­cured 19 ocean go­ing ships al­most free of cost from var­i­ous friendly na­tions of Bangladesh, to im­prove the mar­itime prow­ess.

On be­half of the mar­itime fra­ter­nity of Bangladesh, Ab­dus Sa­mad ex­pressed grat­i­tude to the Honourable Prime Min­is­ter,

H.E. Sheikh Hasina, MP, for her kind guid­ance, di­rec­tion, ad­vice and sup­port. Un­der her able guid­ance Bangladesh has been able to es­tab­lish its le­git­i­mate rights over the sea, ports have been de­vel­oped with mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties and in­land wa­ter­ways have been made sus­tain­able by car­ry­ing out 1500 km of dredg­ing in the past five years. With her kind as­sis­tance, Bangladesh has been able to pro­cure six ocean go­ing ships and

in­fra­struc­ture at Chit­tagong and Mongla Ports has been up­graded by build­ing new jet­ties and ter­mi­nals. The ad­di­tion of Payra deep sea­port and Matar­bari com­mer­cial port will fur­ther add to the mar­itime ex­cel­lence of the na­tion.

Bangladesh is a mar­itime coun­try due to its geo­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion as the coun­try not only con­nects to South Asia but also to South East Asia, Asia Pa­cific, Eu­rope and

Africa through sea. As he con­cluded, Ab­dus Sa­mad said, the con­fer­ence will ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties and find so­lu­tions to ex­ist­ing chal­lenges, share best prac­tices and iden­tify ways to col­lab­o­rate in new busi­ness and in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in the re­gion and re­spec­tive coun­tries can be pro­moted to a global au­di­ence.

R Ramprasad, Ed­i­tor-in-chief and Pub­lisher, Mar­itime Gate­way, In­dia re­called the first edi­tion of SAMLF or­gan­ised last year that brought to­gether for the first time stake­hold­ers of South Asian mar­itime na­tions to dis­cuss key is­sues re­lated to in­tra-re­gional trade and mar­itime con­nec­tiv­ity. “The se­cond edi­tion of this sum­mit builds on this foun­da­tion to con­tinue the dis­cus­sions started a year ago.” Bangladesh has been the most re­mark­able growth story in the re­cent years with GDP growth of more than 7 per cent for FY2017-18. The coun­try is strength­en­ing its mar­itime and lo­gis­tics in­fra­struc­ture to emerge as a con­nec­tiv­ity hub be­tween Asia and South East Asia. He pointed at the un­der-utilised trade po­ten­tial of South Asian re­gion, while high­light­ing the need for busi­ness and eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion which can pro­pel south Asian trade vol­umes from the ex­ist­ing $23 bil­lion to $67 bil­lion. An­other po­ten­tial op­por­tu­nity lies in coastal ship­ping and tran­ship­ment through In­dian ports that can re­duce long de­lays and ad­di­tional ship­ping costs. Con­clud­ing his ad­dress, Ramprasad listed the chal­lenges: An ur­gent need to in­crease port ca­pac­i­ties, con­nec­tiv­ity im­prove­ment, sim­pli­fied Cus­toms reg­u­la­tions and use of tech­nol­ogy.

Guest of Hon­our, H.E. Dr. Har­sha De Silva, Hon’ble State Min­is­ter for Na­tional Poli­cies and Eco­nomic Af­fairs, Gov­ern­ment of the Demo­cratic So­cial­ist Repub­lic of Sri Lanka shared few ex­cerpts from the World Bank’s re­cent re­port on South Asia – “A glass half-full

– The prom­ise of re­gional trade in South Asia.” “South Asian na­tions should be trad­ing among them­selves three times more than the cur­rent lev­els,” em­pha­sised De Silva.

The cost of trade in this re­gion is dis­pro­por­tion­ately high within the re­gion, as op­posed to ASEAN and three times more than the coun­tries in NAFTA. Most of us have lower tar­iffs but also opaque para-tar­iffs con­tribut­ing to SAFTA’S un­der per­for­mance. Port re­stric­tions and tough VISA regimes have added to the sub-op­ti­mal out­come. De Silva

gave a clar­ion call for re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers to pro­mo­tion of re­gional trade which in­clude bor­der tax dis­tor­tion, ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion of para-tar­iffs and sen­si­tive com­modi­ties list, re­moval of non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers and the need to im­prove trust among the na­tions. In­dia and Sri Lanka have moved ahead to deepen trade ties through Eco­nomic and Tech­nol­ogy Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment and such ini­tia­tives need to be repli­cated across the re­gion. “While Sri Lanka is iden­ti­fied as a South Asian na­tion, it is more an In­dian Ocean na­tion. Our gov­ern­ment has set tar­get to place the Port of Colombo among the top 20 con­tainer ports by 2020 and to more than dou­ble the mar­itime con­tri­bu­tion to GDP by 2030.” Em­bark­ing on this jour­ney Sri Lanka has listed out ini­tia­tives to im­prove trade with neigh­bours which in­clude BIMSTEC coastal ship­ping agree­ment, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have also fi­nalised a coastal ship­ping agree­ment to boost trade, in­vest­ment and mar­itime con­nec­tiv­ity. These agree­ments will im­prove con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween both the na­tions, cut­ting on tran­ship­ment time and cost. It will par­tic­u­larly help the RMG sec­tor as ship­ping via Colombo saves three days to the trade, as com­pared to sail­ing via Sin­ga­pore. Con­clud­ing his ad­dress, De Silva averred that South Asian trade can grow 200 per cent if ma­jor bar­ri­ers such as bor­der tax dis­tor­tions, non­tar­iff bar­ri­ers, high con­nec­tiv­ity cost and trust deficit are ad­dressed.

“Bangladesh is our big­gest de­vel­op­ment part­ner to­day. Mar­itime re­la­tions be­tween the coun­tries be­gan in 1972 with the sign­ing of pro­to­col on In­land wa­ter tran­sit,” ex­claimed Guest of Hon­our, H.E. Man­sukh Man­daviya, Hon’ble Min­is­ter of State for Road Trans­port & High­ways, Ship­ping and Chem­i­cal & Fer­tilis­ers, Govt. of In­dia. Over the last few years In­dia has ex­tended three lines of credit worth $8 bil­lion for var­i­ous so­cio-eco­nomic and in­fra­struc­ture projects in Bangladesh. Im­prov­ing con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween the two coun­tries, Prime Min­is­ters of both the coun­tries in­au­gu­rated five dif­fer­ent projects in ar­eas of con­nec­tiv­ity and in­te­gra­tion of en­ergy net­work. Man­daviya listed out In­dian ini­tia­tives to strengthen mar­itime sec­tor in­clud­ing Sa­gar­mala pro­gramme, in­land wa­ter­way de­vel­op­ment and plans to de­velop new ports and ship re­pair fa­cil­i­ties on the east coast which will be help­ful to Bangladesh as well.

“SAMLF is very im­por­tant from our na­tional and re­gional per­spec­tive as it of­fers an ex­cel­lent plat­form to boost ship­ping and lo­gis­tics ca­pa­bil­i­ties of coun­tries in South Asia,” re­marked H.E. Sha­ja­han Khan, MP, Hon’ble Min­is­ter, Min­istry of Ship­ping, Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Bangladesh. The event will help ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties and find so­lu­tions to ex­ist­ing chal­lenges, share best prac­tices and iden­tify ways to pro­mote col­lab­o­ra­tion among mar­itime na­tions. South Asia has re­cently posted out­stand­ing growth and has a sig­nif­i­cant share in the in­ter­na­tional trade, but in­tra-re­gional trade has been lag­ging be­hind due to lack of in­te­gra­tion among mem­ber na­tions. The in­te­gra­tion largely de­pends on the po­lit­i­cal will and con­nec­tiv­ity. In this con­text the gov­ern­ment is de­vel­op­ing lo­gis­tics in­fra­struc­ture, deep sea­ports and high-speed rail con­nec­tiv­ity to link ports to hin­ter­land and neigh­bour­ing na­tions. South Asia is an emerg­ing mar­ket which of­fers am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties for ex­pand­ing mar­itime ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the re­gion and such plat­forms can play a vi­tal role in bring­ing to­gether such re­gional coun­tries and pro­mote greater in­ter­est of the re­gion.

“Like fa­ther, like daugh­ter,” Fa­ther of the na­tion Bangla Bandhu, Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man was a vi­sion­ary leader and his daugh­ter, H.E. Sheikh Hasina, MP, Hon’ble Prime Min­is­ter, Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Bangladesh and Chief Guest of the event is no less. She shared the vi­sion to reg­is­ter Bangladesh into the league of mid­dle in­come coun­tries by 202l and to join the de­vel­oped and pros­per­ous ones by 2041. But this jour­ney will not be lonely, as she be­lieves in the col­lab­o­ra­tive de­vel­op­ment of the en­tire South Asian re­gion. “There is a huge po­ten­tial in mar­itime sec­tor in South Asia and uti­liz­ing the sec­tor it is pos­si­ble to make a big lead into the so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the peo­ple of this re­gion,” she de­clared.

(L to R) Md. Ab­dus Sa­mad, Sec­re­tary, Min­istry of Ship­ping, Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Bangladesh; H.E. Sha­ja­han Khan, MP, Hon’ble Min­is­ter, Min­istry of Ship­ping, Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic ofBangladesh; H.E. Sheikh Hasina, MP, Hon’ble Prime Min­is­ter Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Bangladesh; H.E. Man­sukh Man­daviya, Hon’ble Min­is­ter of State for Road Trans­port & High­ways, Ship­ping and Chem­i­cal & Fer­tilis­ers, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia; H.E. Dr. Har­sha De Silva, Hon’ble State Min­is­ter for Na­tional Poli­cies and Eco­nomic Af­fairs, Gov­ern­ment of the Demo­cratic So­cial­ist Repub­lic of Sri Lanka.

H.E. Sheikh Hasina, MP, Hon’ble Prime Min­is­ter Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Bangladesh de­liv­er­ing her Chief Guest ad­dress

Rapt au­di­ence at a ses­sion in progress

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