BANGKOK (IDN) - At a United Nations forum, Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, South Korea and Sri Lanka have agreed to more than double the number of products under preferential tariff treatment in order to expand trade and boost growth in the region.
The six countries are party to the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), previously named the Bangkok Agreement, signed in 1975 as an initiative of United Nations Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), which functions as the APTA secretariat.
APTA is the longest running preferential trade agreement among developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. It aims to promote economic development through the adoption of mutually beneficial trade liberalization measures that will contribute to intra-regional trade expansion. It also provides for economic integration through coverage of merchandise goods, services, investment and trade facilitation.
“Trade is key to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Despite a proliferation of regional trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region, APTA remains the only operational regional trade agreement linking China and India, two of the fastest growing markets of the world with a combined consumer base of over 2.6 billion people,” noted Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, during the Fourth Ministerial Council meeting that concluded on January 13.
According to ESCAP News, the stakes on international trade and investment have been considerably increased by the adoption of the 2030 Agenda as they have been identified as key means of implementation. Moreover, trade and investment have been instrumental in Asia and the Pacific in reducing poverty, empowering women, achieving inclusive and sustainable growth and decent employment.
In addition to increasing the number of products under preferential treatment the Ministerial Council also agreed to the fifth round of negotiations to further expand the scope and depth of regional economic cooperation and integration in Asia and the Pacific. The Council reiterated commitment to continued progress by agreeing to the fifth session of the APTA Ministerial Council to be held in January 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, Mongolia has acceded to APTA as a new Participating State, pending its national ratification.
ESCAP News reported from Moscow on December 8, 2016 that a new era of trade cooperation between China, Mongolia and the Russian Federation was opened when the governments of the three countries signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on International Road Transport along the Asian Highway Network. The Agreement was negotiated over a three-year period, with ESCAP providing technical assistance on its formulation.
By signing the Agreement, each country agreed to give the other two countries traffic rights for international road transport operation on the parts of Asian Highway routes AH3 and AH 4 connecting their respective territories. [IDN-InDepthNews – 14 January 2017]
Photo: Bangkok hosted the APTA Fourth Ministerial Council in January. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
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