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Set up D-8 FTA, remove tariff barriers: PM

Financial Express, Dhaka

Set up D-8 FTA, remove tariff barriers: PM

8 July 2010

ABUJA, Nigeria, July 8 (Agencies): Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina here today urged the Developing-8 member states to evolve their own mechanism for establishing a D-8 Free Trade Area (FTA) to increase trade and business.

"Trade among us, however, has been disappointing despite having a combined market of nearly one billion people," she said while addressing the seventh summit of D-8 countries at the State House of Nigeria.

Hasina said with the Doha Round remaining elusive, "we truly need a mechanism within our capacity for a D-8 Free Trade Area."

She added that the obstacles created due to lack of harmonisation in standards and uniform sets of criteria in testing of quality are responsible for increasing tariff and para-tariff barriers and hindering trade expansion in the D-8 nations.

She said the D-8, which was established twelve years ago, is now poised to deliver its goal of economic development through optimising our synergies.

With proper recipe for trade and investment, and a market of a billion people, she said, the D-8 can achieve 10 to 15 per cent of intra-D-8 trade by 2018, a target set two years ago in the 6th Summit.

"This is indeed possible with our political commitment, and meaningful cooperation of our private sectors. Therefore, let us all be serious and sincere in our commitment, and thus provide the impetus for harnessing our combined potentials, and realising our shared goal of a prosperous future," Sheikh Hasina said.

The Prime Minister said Bangladesh is currently examining the "Multilateral Agreement among D-8 Member Countries on Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters" to reduce obstacles to trade, and to increase capacity.

"Last year, we had ratified the Protocol on the Preferential Tariff Scheme for TPS-OIC (PRETAS), which is in force. This year, we would sign the Protocol on the Rules of Origin of Trade Preferential System of the OIC," she said expressing the hope that these measures would help boost economic activity within the D-8 and the OIC.

She, however, said success of these agreements depends on interaction of our businessmen. This means facilitating their travel for which Bangladesh joined, in March this year, four D-8 members in ratifying the Simplification of Visa Procedures for the businessmen of the D-8 member states, she said.

The Prime Minister said four D-8 member countries have signed bilateral free trade agreements with each other. "Indeed, with the Doha Round remaining elusive, we truly need a mechanism within our capacity for a D-8 Free Trade Area," she said.

Stressing the need for cooperation in energy sector among the D-8 countries for rapid economic growth, Sheikh Hasina said some of the countries have vast energy resources, which could be made available to others, at affordable price.

"Our private sectors here could play a significant role in closing the demand-resource gap," she said.

Terming the theme "Enhancing Investment Cooperation among D-8 Countries" as most appropriate and timely for the Summit’s deliberation, the Prime Minister said the recent global economic turmoil has revealed how globalised our world is. A negative economic impact anywhere can easily have severe adverse effect worldwide, she said.

However, some economies were able to weather the storm, and Bangladesh was one of them, she said. "Despite the crisis, our annual GDP growth was around 6 per cent. I believe our D-8 countries, through sharing of our experiences, potentials, and enhancing trade and investment, could better overcome such crises in future."