Momen stresses regional trade agreement to untap IORA potentials
DHAKA, Nov 24, 2022 (BSS) - Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen today laid emphasis on realizing a regional trade agreement among states in the Indian Ocean region to untap intra-IORA trade and investment potentials.
"The strengthening of economic relations among IORA member states through a regional trade agreement and the elimination of intra IORA trade and investment barriers are now more than ever important," he said.
The Bangladesh foreign minister made the remark while chairing the 22nd Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Council of Ministers (COM) meeting in the capital
Currently, Bangladesh is the chair of the inter-governmental organisation comprising 23 member states and 10 dialogue partners.
Momen said the current intra-IORA trade ratio is 35 percent which is significantly lower than corresponding levels in the EU that is around 60 percent and North America with around 40 percent while it is about half of the level of that in East and Southeast Asia.
"Without hesitation I can say that despite the potential for trade and investment, even after more than two decades, the IORA market is not fully untapped by its member states," he said.
Momen said IORA has evolved into an important regional group of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean through sustained dialogue and cooperation and now is playing as a key driving force to ensure development, peace and stability in the region.
"However, we are yet to reap the benefits of our latent potentials to make IORA a significant platform of the region," he added.
Bangladesh has always expressed unwavering commitments and pursued them religiously for the betterment of the people of this region.
"As Chair, we feel utmost obligation to devote ourselves to all platforms of IORA to strengthen the organizational framework and add value to the process," said the Bangladesh minister.
Dhaka is hosting ministerial level delegation from 16 member countries
namely host Bangladesh, Australia, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)and Yemen and one dialogue partner from Japan at the meeting.
Besides, high-level delegations from other member states-- France, Iran,
Kenya, Oman, Malaysia, Seychelles and Singapore and dialogue partners--
China, Egypt, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, the UK and the USA also attended the COM.
Momen said the world is increasingly focused on the Indian Ocean region.
Therefore, he said, IORA, as a regional platform, presents an opportunity for the Indian Ocean region to craft its own identity - to set its own priorities, build its own connections, and strengthen its common voice - just as other regional organizations have done.
"We have to move together as a region. We have to equip the whole region with the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise to harness the opportunities of Indian Ocean to ensure inclusive development," he said.
Keeping that in mind, the foreign minister said the member states have adopted the 'IORA-Development Initiative (IDI)' and which is currently focusing on promoting regional integration, economic and sustainable development initiatives in the region.
"We hope that Dhaka Development Initiative would guide us in our future endeavors to promote shared interest of the region," Momen said.
He said that IORA requires assistance from its dialogue partners for making the initiative an important tool for ensuring inclusive development in the region.
He put emphasis on developing a framework collectively along with other necessary contingency plans for the region to handle any major environmental disaster in near future as disaster Risk Management is a priority area of IORA.
"We need to think beyond. We need to create a dedicated platform for climate change," he said.
Bangladesh foreign minister called for everyone's support and contribution to take IORA to a new height for ensuring sustainable development through maximum use of marine resources keeping the oceans healthy.
The IORA as an inter-governmental organisation was established on March 7, 1997.
Bangladesh assumed the position of the IORA Chair at the 21st IORA COM meeting and adopted the theme of "Harnessing the opportunities of the Indian Ocean sustainably for inclusive development" for its chairing period from 2021-2023.