The Bangladesh media contingent was most interested about talks on the BBIN agreement and the trilateral cooperation on hydropower.
In response to questions on the issues form the Bangladeshi press contingent Foreign Minister Lyonpo Damchoe Dorji said BBIN motor vehicle agreement and the trilateral Hydropower Project MoU were among the issues discussed between the two governments during the recent state visit of Bangladesh PM, Sheikh Hasina, to Bhutan.
In a press conference after the visit foreign minister Damchoe Dorji said the BBIN motor vehicle agreement will add value to inter trading among the countries in the region.
However, this statement was made prior to the government’s decisions to withdraw BBIN from the Parliament due to lack of numbers.
“If you back at the performance of trade in this region, especially in the southern region, it is way behind the ASEAN region,” the foreign minister said. “In fact I have been told that the net worth of trade in inter-trade in the SAARC region is only about 5 percent of our SAARC trade with other countries in the world.”
He said SAARC countries suffer from land tariff barriers to trade and connectivity is one of them and Bhutan being a land lock country has therefore been supportive of BBIN.
The minister said the concern of some parliament members that BBIN will result in a huge influx of vehicles is a legitimate one. “But there are certain provisions in the agreement which will protect the interest of the respective countries,” he added.
He said the other concerns were on whether adequate infrastructure was in place, damage to environment, pollution, waste management and extra import of fuels and other issues related to smuggling.
On the trilateral Hydro Power Project MoU the minister said that a lot of draft MoU’s has been exchanged amongst the three countries.
“We have more or less come to a common understanding that this trilateral MoU has reached a final stage and was discussed between the PM of India and PM of Bangladesh during the recent visit of Bangladesh PM to India,” he said.
It was decided that this MoU would be signed at a appropriate time when the leaders of the three countries meet and contribute immensely to cross border export of electricity, especially in BBIN countries.
The MoU proposed as of now has been discussed is a broad context according to the minister. They did not go into details of how the transmission of electricity will take place. This will be discussed by a steering committee formed under this MoU.
He also said that Bhutan had several discussions with Bangladesh and likewise India with Bangladesh. “Bhutan being a net exporter of electricity in the region of course it is very keen to export electricity to Bangladesh and we have been exporting to India,” the minister said. “So this comes at a time when countries, especially Bangladesh, Nepal and India are in need of a lot of cheap and reign hydro power.”