SHILLONG, Aug 31 - The Motor Vehicle agreement signed between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) has the potential to substantially boost up the meagre five per cent inter-regional trade and change living conditions of the people in these countries, experts here said today.
Presenting a report of its findings here in the presence of senior Government officials and exporters, CUTS International, an NGO said, BBIN�s trade with ASEAN stands at 25 per cent, East Asia at 35 per cent and Europe at a whopping 60 per cent.
�But the inter-regional trade of these countries is just five per cent. BBIN has the potential to grow substantially once the Motor Vehicles agreement is fully implemented. South Asia remains the least integrated region of the world,� Arnab Ganguly, Assistant Policy Analyst, CUTS International said.
He pointed out there are several issues that need to be addressed before this agreement is implemented and on top of the list is the �hard infrastructure� like roads and amenities on the highways, which has to be developed.
The Motor Vehicle agreement was signed between these four SAARC Nations in 2015. However, last year Bhutan pulled out temporarily from the agreement as its Upper House of Parliament didn�t ratify the agreement.
Once implemented, the agreement would allow the smooth transport of goods from one country to the other without much hindrance. There are at present ten identified corridors for the smooth movement of vehicles from these countries.
Ganguly said that apart from the hard infrastructure, fine tuning is being done on the policy matters such as reducing time at the custom checks and similar other issues.
�There are also discussions being held to include Myanmar in this agreement and if that is done than the whole South East Asian market opens up,� he said.
Lending support to the agreement, Meghalaya Commissioner, Department of Transport, Israel Ingty said that the Meghalaya Government is serious about international trade and is doing everything possible to boost it.
One of the corridors under this agreement passes through Dawki Land Custom Station in Meghalaya to Bangladesh. In this regard, secretary, Meghalaya International Chamber of Commerce and an exporter, Doly Khonglah urged the Meghalaya Government to improve road infrastructure in the State.
She said that trucks cannot move through East Khasi Hills district to Dawki as the �Dawki Bridge� can support just nine tonne. Though an approval has been given to construct a new bridge in the area, nothing has been done so far.
Khonglah further said that even without the agreement the State and the Central Governments can help trade to a great extent. �The roads in Bangladeshi side are much better than at our end of the border. The roads are narrow here and unrepaired in several areas,� she said.
She further urged the Government to issue uniforms for the truckers from India and also negotiate with Bangladesh to allow a helper with them while they enter Bangladesh. �Now only a truck driver is allowed to enter into Bangladesh to deliver the goods. This is a security concern,� she stated.