The intra-regional trade among the BBIN (Bangladesh Bhutan India and Nepal) nations, which currently stands at around $15 billion, can increase to more than double if the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement is implemented, says a study.
The findings of the study, jointly conducted by India-based research organization CUTS and Bangladesh-based Unnayan Samannay, were made public at a discussion styled ‘Regional Policy Dialogue on Connectivity and Trade Facilitation in BBIN Sub-Region of the Indo-Pacific’ in a city hotel yesterday.
The sub-regional coordinative architecture of the four South Asian countries needs to formulate a protocol in order to be able to make the best use of the regional trade potentials, speakers said at the event.
By ‘protocol’, the speakers point to a set of clear definitions about all relevant technicalities including the type of vehicles that will be allowed across the borders, the charges and fees for using the roads of the countries within the grouping, and a well-coordinated mechanism of inspection of customs departments across the borders of the member countries.
Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, stressed trade facilitation for making intra-regional trade faster.
He said if the countries can reduce the number of documents necessary for customs approval and inspection of shipped products, trade within the region may grow more than double the present volume.
The BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement was signed on 15 June 2015 in the Bhutanese capital Thimpu to facilitate cross-border movement of passenger and cargo vehicles. Three countries ratified the agreement, with Bhutan staying out.
Bangladesh, India and Nepal had trial runs of passenger buses to pave the way for operating regular passenger services. But protocols for movement of vehicles, needed to be signed to implement the MVA, have not yet been negotiated.
At present, the BBIN just has a framework agreement which does not address any specific issue about trade facilitation.
“We need to have a protocol and necessary mechanism which will cover the risks of importers and exporters within the region,” said Rajon Sharma, an adviser to the Federation of Nepal Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
The BBIN needs to specify what type of transport documents are necessary for cargos, he said. There should be only one transport document to cross all borders, which will also cover all liabilities, he added.
In their study report, the CUTS and Unnayan Sammannay also put forward a number of recommendations to the BBIN to realise the full trade and investment potential within the region.
The first recommendation is to creating a single window integrated check post to aid implementation of BBIN initiative.
According to the report, this will reduce the time and cost in the trading process. This may also help remove the issues relating to delay in cargo movement, which is caused by infrastructural limitations in the borders.
The researchers also suggested having a single operation software, which will be maintained under the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement. They claimed this will create harmony in procedural matters observed across countries of the region.
The report also recommended operationalising an ‘electronic transfer of papers through electronic data interchange system’.
The study has also identified some infrastructural bottlenecks in Bangladesh which, according to them, are hindering the implementation of BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement.
The bottlenecks include sub optimal road infrastructure, unavailability of testing laboratories, inadequate warehouse and cold storage, and lack of parking facilities in the border.
Unnayan Samannay Chairman and former governor of Bangladesh Bank Atiur Rahman stressed the need for developing railways and waterways for a faster implementation of the BBIN initiative.