Dhaka, June 25 (UNB) Bangladesh and Thailand are now thinking of beyond the ‘BCIM-EC’ linking it with Asean countries to have greater connectivity with increased and smooth flow of trade ensuring benefits for all.
The issue came up for discussions at the first-ever Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) between the two countries here on Thursday.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque and Thai Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Foreign Secretary) Norachit Sinhaseni shared the idea at a joint press briefing at state guesthouse Padma after the FOC. Bangladesh Ambassador to Thailand Saida Muna Tasneem was, among others, present.
“Naturally, at the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) discussion, we haven’t looked at these possibilities. But we thought it’s time we should also look for how to go beyond BCIM to get linked with other similar connectivity that already exists,” said the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary.
He said both the countries discussed the matter for the first time and decided to form a join working group on connectivity to look at the possibilities on road connectivity.
Earlier, Norachit Sinhaseni described the East-West and North South corridors which end in Kunming, China.
“East West corridor and North South corridor are the hubs of Asean connectivity,” he said adding that East West corridor runs from a deep seaport from Vietnam which passes through into Laos and from it connects with Thailand linking China.
The second one runs through Singapore all the way to Malaysia and up in Kunming, China.
“Both of them finish in Kunming, and BCIM will also connect Kunming. Once you materialise BCIM connectivity, both the corridors can be connected from Kunming,” said the Thai Foreign Secretary.
He said many of the agreements and MoUs discussed in the FOC will be signed at the 7th Joint Commission meeting at the Foreign Minister level in Dhaka in late 2015.
The discussion on signing deals and MoUs on road, costal shipping connecting Chittagong and Monga ports – , tourism are now at an advance stage, he said adding that draft MoUs have been exchanged.
The Thai Foreign Secretary said they have granted duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access for 6998 Bangladeshi products while 15 more are under consideration as they go for review in every two years.
The two countries also decided to exempt visa for diplomatic passport holders while exemption for official passport holders will be discussed further. “People-to-people contact is very important.”
Bangladesh has made a request for Thai investment in energy, food processing, tourism and health sectors which are also priority areas for Thailand.
“We’ll be hosting 1st joint working group on investment and back-to-back joint investment group on health sector later part of this year,” said the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary.
To facilitate trade, both the countries agreed to sign MoU between BSTI and Thai Industrial Standard Institute.
Responding to a question on recruiting Bangladeshis in Thai labour market, the Thai Foreign Secretary said there is recognition from both sides, and it is a question of demand and supply.
He said they have a plan to recruit Bangladeshis for two sectors — construction and fisheries — but their priority is now to complete legalisation of 1.6 million migrants most from their neighbouring countries.
Both Bangladesh and Thailand described the FOC as very fruitful, constructive and result-oriented one.
Norachit Sinhaseni led the nine-member Thai delegation while Shahidul Haque led Bangladesh side at the FOC.