Indian Chamber of Commerce organises the BIMSTEC Business Conclave 2023

Indian Chamber of Commerce organises

Kolkata, 14th June 2023: The Indian Chamber of Commerce organised the highly anticipated BIMSTEC Business Conclave 2023, from the 13th to the 15th of June (Tuesday – Thursday) at the prestigious Hyatt Regency in Kolkata. This event marked a notable milestone in fostering regional cooperation and economic integration among the member countries of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). BIMSTEC Conclave brings together seven member nations/states to promote economic growth, connectivity, enhanced trade, investment, and much more. This conclave offered plenty of opportunities for networking, idea exchange, and collaboration between attendees. It acted as a facilitator to encourage business collaborations, joint ventures, and technology exchanges between business owners, financiers, influential figures, and policymakers from the member nations. Many esteemed dignitaries were present for this business conclave like Mehul Mohanka, President, Indian Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Tashi Wangmo, Secretary, Industry, Commerce and Employment, Government of Bhutan, Mr. Wanchai Varavithya Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Government of Thailand, Dr. Shashi Panja, Hon’ble Minister of Industry & Commerce, Government of West Bengal, H.E. Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi, Vice Minister, Foreign Affairs, Government of Thailand, Mr. Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Industries, Government of Bangladesh, Mr. Aung Naing 0o, Hon’ble Minister of Commerce, Government of Myanmar, Mr. Ramesh Rizal, Hon’ble Minister of Industry, Commerce & Supplies, Government of Nepal, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, Hon’ble Minister of Industries, Government of Sri Lanka, Mr. Mahendra P. Lama, Chief Economic Advisor, Government of Sikkim, and Mr. Ameya Prabhu, Sr. Vice President, Indian Chamber of Commerce.

While delivering the welcome address, Mr. Mehul Mohanka, President, Indian Chamber of Commerce, said, “It is a pleasure to welcome all of you to the business conclave this morning. On behalf of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, I express my gratitude to each one of you for taking the time to attend today’s event. Kolkata is a rapidly emerging connected capital for the big region. The city is strategically and physically positioned, with strong ties to the Bay of Bengal, the Himalayas, the Eurasian hinterland, the Indian Ocean region, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. The region is bound together by strong and vibrant cultural ties. It brings together more than 1.7 billion people and has a combined GDP of about $3 trillion. BIMSTEC acts as a vital bridge among member countries, connecting South and Southeast Asia, and expanding trade, the economy, business investments, and cultural connections. Currently, BIMSTEC nations contribute just 5.9% of interregional commerce, whereas Asian countries account for around 24%. By expanding regional trade and investment in crucial sectors, BIMSTEC can play a vital role in progressing the economies and improving the well-being of the people in the region. As a result, it has become critical for BIMSTEC member states to finish and implement the BIMSTEC Free Trade Agreement as soon as possible, fostering economic integration and prosperity within the regional grouping. In keeping with India’s East strategy, the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has a specific focus on India’s trade and business links with South and Southeast Asian nations, and has played a vital role in establishing synergy between India and its South Asian and Southeast Asian neighbours. The business conclave was organised to facilitate participation and discussions among businesses from these countries, as well as to explore business opportunities, address challenges, find solutions, and foster the possibility of business tie-ups based on market complementarities. I am hopeful that the three-day long stakeholder meetings would produce positive results.”

Ms. Tashi Wangmo, Secretary, Industry, Commerce and Employment, Government of Bhutan, said, “I am privileged to address you today as we convene here to promote economic relations among the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation member states. I am accompanied by a delegation of 20 Bhutanese business leaders, led by the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries’ respected president and two vice presidents. This event, which brings together entrepreneurs, politicians, and industry experts from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, is a wonderful honour for my delegation and myself. This event demonstrates our mutual commitment to regional collaboration and economic progress. Bhutan has been an active participant in the collaborative discussions launched inside the Vincent framework since the beginning of the negotiations. We have continually worked to meet our pledges and obligations, such as implementing three elimination schedules, decreasing the negative list, and carrying out additional responsibilities deriving from the continuing talks. However, considerable work has to be done, notably in terms of improving the facilitating environment among member nations. Despite their geographical closeness and cultural commonalities, member nations’ trade facilitation environments varied greatly. While nations such as India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bangladesh are further along in this respect, Nepal and Bhutan lag behind, owing to their landlocked situations. Creating ideas that would work for all seven member nations would undoubtedly be difficult. However, there is a way where there is a will. There is no issue we cannot solve if we join forces and collaborate to build mutually beneficial collaboration.”

Mr. Wanchai Varavithya Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Government of Thailand, said, “I am ecstatic to see such a huge number of people from diverse nations. This meeting represents the strength of our friendships as well as the potential for new ones to be formed. I’d like to thank the Indian Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event, which allows us to share ideas, identify difficulties, and explore potential to make our economies more successful and sustainable. Furthermore, this event gives a wonderful opportunity for the Bay of Bengal countries to strengthen their commercial and investment ties. We must seize this chance to strengthen economic cooperation and solve the obstacles impeding our trade and investment development and potential. In 2023, our commerce reached $23.5 billion, indicating a 35% rise over the previous year. This represents 4.7% of our overall commerce. To further invigorate our economy, we must focus on encouraging private sector engagement and removing any impediments to trade and investment. Since 2004, the nations of the Bay of Bengal have been negotiating to improve trade and enhance regional integration. These agreements have proved to be a critical instrument for improving our economy, particularly in the face of global economic uncertainty. As a result, we are committed to moving these talks forward in order to realise their full potential. We can expedite commercial activity and create a favourable atmosphere for our private sector to grow by lowering obstacles and streamlining trade procedures. This will help to broader economic development and stimulate further investment.”

Mr. Mahendra P. Lama, Chief Economic Advisor, Government of Sikkim, said, “Today’s proceedings are unique because we have concentrated on developing an innovative and inclusive approach to addressing global challenges. Our goal is to develop an integrated approach that takes into consideration the interests of all participating countries. We experienced certain difficulties along the route, such as political tensions between India and Pakistan. However, I am certain that these difficulties may be solved via constructive debate and teamwork. Our region’s political and economic dynamics are drastically different, with a mix of established and developing countries. As a result, we must adopt a more personalised strategy that takes into account each country’s distinct traits and needs. The numerous governmental structures in existence have slowed the progress of SAARC efforts. Numerous committees and bureaucratic processes have hampered quick decision-making and execution. We must simplify these procedures and equip people with the required knowledge to carry our projects ahead in order to ensure efficiency. Furthermore, we must learn from other places’ experiences, such as Africa and Southeast Asia, where small-scale efforts have had positive results. Instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all strategy, we should concentrate on specialised programmes that capitalise on specific nations’ assets and advantages. Significant progress has been made in infrastructure development, trade facilitation, and connectivity. Our state has developed as a vital link between Southeast Asia and South Asia. This strategic position offers tremendous prospects for collaboration and growth. These causes have all contributed to significant socioeconomic improvement. To improve neglected parts of society, our administration has promoted social inclusion, financial empowerment, and sustainable practices. To promote holistic growth, we have also concentrated on education, skill development, and tourism marketing. We have achieved significant advances in infrastructure, such as the building of industrial parks, the extension of canals, and the establishment of airports. These projects have improved connectivity inside our state as well as connectivity with surrounding nations. Agriculture, as a natural strength of our region, has enormous growth potential. We’ve achieved great strides in agro-processing, organic farming, and research collaborations. We are addressing the medical requirements of our region and nearby nations in the healthcare industry by offering sophisticated facilities and training activities. Educational exchanges, tourist projects, and public-private partnerships have also contributed to regional growth and collaboration.”

Dr. Shashi Panja, Hon’ble Minister of Industry & Commerce, Govt. of West Bengal, said, “We take immense pride in hosting such a magnificent event in our city. I’d like to thank the Indian Chambers of Commerce, particularly Mr. Mehul Mohanka, President, and all the hardworking members who helped plan this event. Their efforts have been extraordinary. This region, in my opinion, has a substantial interest in future development and prosperity. I am glad to declare that Bengal, due to its strategic geographical location, acts as an essential link between Southeast Asia and South Asia. We frequently showcase Bengal’s industrial strength, emphasising the talented workforce and ample human resources available in our state. We have built a robust industry foundation that has achieved remarkable milestones in social and economic development. Our Chief Minister has always prioritised social inclusion, financial empowerment, and gender equality. From empowering women to fostering clean energy adoption, promoting health and well-being, facilitating sustainable industry practices, and ensuring quality education, our focus has been on holistic development. Our state’s strategic position also contributes to international trade, making Bengal an indispensable hub in the region’s transportation network. The government’s commitment to fortify industrial and logistical infrastructure, as well as the proposed development plans, such as the deep-sea port and transportation projects, are game-changers for the entire region. The augmentation of digital connectivity, the booming e-commerce industry, and the promotion of sustainable logistics and energy collaboration all play vital roles in market expansion. Bengal has an abundance of renewable energy sources, including solar and wind energy. We can fulfil rising energy demands while guaranteeing long-term growth by using these resources and developing clean energy initiatives. Agriculture has enormous potential in our state as well. We can harness the full potential of the agricultural sector by developing organic farming, food security, and sustainable farming practices. Medical facilities and research institutions in Bengal serve the expanding medical needs of our state as well as bordering nations like Bangladesh. To ensure competent health services across the area, we can improve healthcare research, training initiatives, and the exchange of best practices. In recent years, the tourist business has grown significantly, bringing people from all around India and beyond. We continue to promote tourism through numerous efforts, ranging from famous names to homestays, while new tourist locations and infrastructure are developed. The neighbouring state of Odisha, with its magnificent coastline, has become a popular destination, and we foresee a similar surge in Bengal. Bengal’s infrastructure development offers immense potential for public-private partnerships. The vast coal mines and the presence of major transportation routes, coupled with policies that promote development and quality, have the capacity to bridge critical gaps in transportation and communication. Leveraging public-private partnerships will expedite infrastructure development and address these challenges effectively.”

H.E. Mr. Vijavat Isarabhakdi, Vice Minister, Foreign Affairs, Government of Thailand, said, “I am thrilled to be here in Kolkata, the fast-paced and ancient city ideally placed on the banks of the Ganges River. This forum will surely help to strengthen collaboration and create greater understanding among all of us. The primary goal of our company, which we founded over a quarter century ago, is at the heart of our collaboration. Our goal is to increase trade and investment, strengthen cross-national relationships, and capitalise on the region’s latent potential. We have achieved great progress in a variety of areas in recent years. Our executives embraced the charter last year, making our company more organised and capable of operating successfully. This year, we are working on a number of initiatives to elevate our achievements even further, including the introduction of BEN-TECH 2030, a centrepiece of Thailand’s chairmanship. This vision document outlines our aspiration for a prosperous, resilient, and open organisation by the year 2030. Thailand’s priority is to enhance the role of the private sector in our organisation. While there is already a mechanism in place to involve the private sector, we believe it should be redesigned to provide more opportunities for creativity and meaningful contributions. The time is ripe to facilitate greater interaction between the private sector of member states and BIMSTEC. To this end, Thailand proposes the establishment of the BIMSTEC Business Advisory Council, which will serve as a platform for representatives from the private sector of each member state to engage with one another and actively participate in the BIMSTEC process. Such a mechanism will enable the private sector to offer perspectives and innovative insights, fostering trade and investment cooperation. It will ensure that the collaboration within our organisation responds effectively to the real needs of businesses and people, especially at smaller scales, such as startups and SMEs. As a country at the heart of the connectivity sector in the region, Thailand places great importance on regional interconnectedness. Regional connectivity begins with strong links between Thailand and India. Our ongoing tri-nation highway projects with road linkages spanning over three thousand kilometres exemplify the potential of road connectivity for facilitating trade and bringing people closer together. These projects encompass roads, railways, maritime and inland waterways, civil aviation, and multimodal infrastructure.”

Mr. Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun, Hon’ble Minister, Ministry of Industries, Government of Bangladesh, said, “Under the energetic leadership of our prime minister, Bangladesh, in particular, has seen enormous progress and has transformed into a middle-income nation. We have seen significant industrial activity in recent years and have taken decisive initiatives to enhance the economy. Our administration has prioritised fostering a welcoming and investment-friendly climate for companies of all sizes. The effects are clear, with significant industrial growth and expansion. Bangladesh has a competitive economy, cheap labour costs, and an English-speaking workforce that is youthful. Its strategic position in South Asia offers it an excellent investment opportunity. We’ve attracted a lot of investors, including several from India. We have also developed special economic zones to facilitate investment even further. Bangladesh has been an important economic partner for India, but we now have a trade imbalance with them. We are aiming to improve our competitiveness and close the trade imbalance. Despite the hurdles, we nearly doubled our commerce with India in the previous fiscal year, reaching two billion dollars. As a developing country, we continue to encounter constraints. However, we are working hard to stimulate investment in a variety of industries, including infrastructure. Communication and facilitation have improved, making commerce between our countries more efficient. Finally, we have established a solid platform and adopted investment-friendly policies to make Bangladesh an appealing location for international collaborations. We welcome all interested parties to join us in attaining our country’s potential. We can overcome the issues we confront by working together to develop a thriving and sustainable economy. Bangladesh is a place of potential, and we are excited to collaborate with you to build a better future.”

Mr. Aung Naing 0o, Hon’ble Minister of Commerce, Government of Myanmar, said, “In the future, rather than depending entirely on federal areas, we should look at stable working circumstances. This may be accomplished via strategic collaboration and thorough planning. On behalf of the development sector, I’d like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who helped with disaster relief operations. It’s heartening to witness India’s support during these trying times. Moving on, it’s critical to recognise the relevance of the MacBook present. Let us actively engage in activities that reflect the inspiring spirit of Mumbai, which has a population of six billion people and accounts for 22% of the world’s population. We must prioritise economic and social growth. The Democrats prioritise people’s well-being and are simple to deal with. The fifth summit, which took place in Colombo, Sri Lanka, intended to defuse geopolitical concerns. We must promote cross-sector collaboration in order to solve issues like development, climate change, and food security. Technological innovation and connection are critical for the successful implementation of new projects. South Africa is an excellent example of a developing economy. We should emulate their achievements and encourage similar initiatives. We must involve dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to poverty reduction and climate change. Let us concentrate on measurable results and deliver our efforts with accuracy. It is a priority to improve cross-border connectivity. We may accomplish tremendous development by expanding regional economic links. Furthermore, financial behaviour must be reviewed to guarantee stability. Local currencies should be encouraged, and difficulties of double taxation should be addressed. People-to-people interaction is critical for building connections. Supporting student exchange programmes and tourist efforts would promote cultural understanding as well as economic progress. Finally, communication and cooperation among member nations are critical. We must respect each other’s sovereignty and work towards common goals. Security, peace, and stability are critical to our region’s long-term progress. Thank you everybody for your hard work and encouragement. We can overcome any obstacles and create a great future if we work together.”

Mr. Ramesh Rizal, Hon’ble Minister of Industry, Commerce & Supplies, Government of Nepal, said, “Nepal’s significance as a location with enormous possibilities for enjoyment and discovery. Several schemes have been implemented to promote growth and dynamism in this quickly changing region. I can confidently educate you about the important players involved after connecting with the community. We have actively participated in a variety of growth sectors. Trade, investment, environmental sustainability, and connectivity must all be emphasised. The Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2004 and is now being revised to include other nations. I hope that this programme fosters academic growth and capitalises on chances. Fortunately, our campaign has highlighted the importance of continued collaboration among member nations. It is critical that we display restraint and work together to address important concerns. We must take strategic tactics and activities to successfully tackle comparable difficulties and eliminate current unfavourable opinions. I firmly believe that our current level of engagement will yield valuable outcomes and enhance our reputation. It may be required to adopt innovative tactics and draw on outside resources. Private sector development and public-private partnerships are critical to fostering economic growth and prosperity. We advocate for more cooperation and collaboration between member nations, with an emphasis on enhancing connectivity, encouraging cross-border energy collaborations, and fostering people-to-people connections through cultural exchanges. I am confident that these initiatives will contribute to the general improvement and prosperity of our area. I implore you to accept reality and try to make our common goal a reality. To achieve our goals, we must maintain our support and collaboration. Let us celebrate our accomplishments thus far, and with your continuing dedication and collaboration, we can assure a brighter future for our people.”

Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, Hon’ble Minister of Industries, Government of Sri Lanka, said, “Firstly, I’d like to express my gratitude on behalf of the Sri Lankan government and people for being a part of this memorable event. As an active and founding member, I believe that our collective efforts in this consortium, comprising seven member countries and a diverse group of nations, are driven by a shared goal: we aspire to foster technological advancements and address conflicts, ultimately promoting sustainable development and creating opportunities for the poor. Our consortium’s geographical position, at the core of this lively and resource-rich region, is a fundamental factor in its significance. It acts as a connector for marine commerce and economic activity, offering access to vital resources. We can unleash this region’s enormous potential and develop it into a hub of economic activity for all member states and their people by using our collective resources. We can work together to address diverse difficulties while concentrating on sustainable development and generating opportunity for individuals. It is vital to improve connectivity among member nations, notably in terms of transportation infrastructure and trade facilitation. I must emphasise the importance of my own country’s economic prosperity. The government’s resolve to transform our country’s economic position from undeveloped to developing has been supported through a variety of measures, with investment in the industry serving as the primary tool. Despite the economic difficulties that we encountered along the road, we have seen consistent improvement and expansion. I promise you that the Indian government and people are ready to assist Sri Lanka in the event of a financial disaster. We see the difficulties that our adjacent country is facing and are dedicated to assisting. Finally, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all participants from India and other countries to come to our country, enjoy our hospitality, and learn about the investment prospects we have.”

While delivering the vote of thanks, Mr. Ameya Prabhu, Sr. Vice President, Indian Chamber of Commerce, said, “I’d like to offer my heartfelt appreciation to all of the participating countries and their representatives. In terms of collaboration and partnership, I believe we should appreciate the huge impact of significant strides. When we look at GDP, we can see that it has stagnated, but it is still quite robust in comparison to other countries. To illustrate, Ethiopia’s nominal GDP is a startling $4.9 billion, yet our country’s budget is $60 trillion. This places us as the world’s fourth-largest economy, and when purchasing power parity (PPP) is included, we rise even higher. The Ministry of Commerce’s mention of this factor is important. It emphasises the need for a strong and secure foundation that protects against future hazards. Maintaining a larger economy is essential for protecting our country’s well-being. For example, we recognise the vital role played by the agriculture industry, which has already received considerable attention. It remains an important aspect of our foreign policy and helps to build partnerships with other countries. Furthermore, it acts as a bridge between nations, encouraging communication and collaboration. We must regard our partnerships with other countries as extensions of our own, establishing deeper bonds and strengthening the road to prosperity. In addition, we intend to improve our agriculture sector by fostering technical developments that can greatly cut prices and boost efficiency. Collaboration with other nations in this sphere, such as Sri Lanka and Israel, has enormous potential. As we confront the problems of climate change and the need for sustainability, we must prioritise these issues. Addressing them straight on will assure a brighter future for future generations. It is critical that we learn from both prior successes and disappointments. Finally, I’d like to convey my appreciation for the chance to participate in the formation of a Big Step Business Advisory Council. It is a tremendous initiative that will surely positively affect our future. Let us not forget that we are the world’s fourth-largest economy, with significant growth potential. We can move ahead together, making a lasting effect on our country and the globe at large. Thank you for your time.”

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