Gear up efforts to break the barriers and expand intra-bloc trade that holds huge untapped potential in the changing global context, Bangladesh urges IORA countries.
Despite having the potential for trade and investment, even after more than two decades of its floating, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) market is not fully tapped by its member-states, Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Momen said while addressing a meeting of the IORA Council of Ministers in Dhaka on Thursday.
"The current intra-IORA trade ratio is 35 percent which is significantly lower than corresponding levels in the EU (around 60 percent) and North America (around 40 percent) respectively, while it is about half the level in East and Southeast Asia," he added.
Dhaka also feels the need for a rethink on the intra-IORA trade and investment dynamics and adopting an approach that would help unlock the bloc's trade and investment potential.
"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 important than ever," Dr Momen told the meet.
As its chair, Bangladesh feels utmost obligation to devote to all platforms of IORA to strengthen the organizational framework and add value to the process, the foreign minister 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 potential to make IORA a significant platform of the region."
He noted that the world is increasingly focused on the Indian Ocean region and that is why IORA, as a regional platform, presents an opportunity for the region to craft its own identity and to set its own priorities.
"We have to move together as a region. To do that we need to prioritize capacity building of SIDS and LDCs with the help from other Member States and Dialogue Partners," he said, adding: "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."
Dhaka proposed adopting unanimously the up-and-coming 'IORA-Development Initiative (IDI)' focused on promoting regional integration, economic and sustainable development initiatives in the region.
The host country hopes IORA's dialogue partners will make this initiative an important tool for ensuring inclusive development in the region.
Regarding addressing climate-change issues, the minister said as per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report "The Indian Ocean is warming at a higher rate than the other oceans around the world".
With warming levels estimated to be three times higher than in the Pacific, coastal areas across the Indian Ocean region are likely to see a continuous 3.7-millimeter annual rise in sea level, resulting in extreme sea disasters nearly every year.
Mr Momen said as all are vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change, a pro-active role of all in the environmental conservation and sustainability process is required.
Bangladesh underlined the urgency of all collectively developing a framework along with other necessary contingency plans for the region to handle any major environmental disaster in the near future
Fifteen minister-level representatives attended the meeting of the IORA, an inter-governmental organisation aimed at strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean region through its 23 member-states and 10 dialogue partners.
The IORA members are Australia, Bangladesh, Union of Comoros, French Republic, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Republic of Madagascar, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Bangladesh assumed the position of IORA chair at the 21st IORA COM meeting held in Dhaka on November 17, 2021 that adopted the theme 'Harnessing the opportunities of the Indian Ocean sustainably for inclusive development'.
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