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Chamber leaders of APTA countries meet in Beijing

Chamber leaders from APTA countries (Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, Mongolia and Sri Lanka) met in Beijing last month to discuss matters related to setting up of APTA CCI headquarters in Beijing and its annual year planning for 2020.

While greeting all delegates from APTA countries at the conference APTA CCI President and Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) Director Dr. Rohitha Silva said: “Countries under APTA have a tremendous potential for growth in the future.”

He further stated: “Although launched as a Conventional Preferential Trade Agreement covering only goods, this regional trade agreement mandates for expansion of coverage to other areas of cooperation, and to date all APTA governments have ratified framework agreements on trade facilitation such as Trade in services and promotion and liberalisation of investments. The APTA pact does occupy a market share for 2,921.2 million people and the size of this big market has accounted for $ 14,615.86 billion in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015-2016.

“We being the private sector representatives from APTA region need to get the best out of these frame work agreements and it’s heartening to see that trade chambers representing private sectors of six countries out of seven countries have gathered here to finalise the activities to synergise the APTA government efforts which is described under article 2 of Asia Pacific Trade Agreement. As all of us know by 2030, the Asia Pacific region will be the next ‘Economic Power House’ in the world. In this context the best thing that happened in the recent past within Asia pacific is the establishment of APTA CCI in collaboration with APTA governments.”

He further requested all participants to look positively at future changes that may happen in the Asia Pacific region. “We at APTA CCI respect the political and cultural identity of each member chamber and the APTA CCI constitution not only ensures an equal voice for all members but we practice it as well. An ideal example showcasing this element is when all members agreed to appoint the first ever secretary general from India to serve at APTA CCI headquarters in Beijing.”

Sri Lanka has been nominated as the first chair at APTA CCI by the 50th standing committee meeting of APTA participating states held at UNESCAP Bangkok in January 2017, and Dr. Rohitha Silva has previously been unanimously appointed as President of APTA CCI by its founder members.

APTA CCI Senior Vice President and Bangladesh Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Director Shafquat Haider speaking on behalf of the Bangladesh chapter stated: “The private sector of Bangladesh fully support the initiatives of APTA CCI and welcome the setting up of APTA CCI headquarters in Beijing.”

He further went on to say: “We at Bangladesh need finance technology and skill development to achieve sustainable development goals. At this point of time Bangladesh has recorded an average economic growth rate of 7.3% and exports have increased to $ 30 billion.” He concluded stating that Bangladesh warmly welcomes the move to set up APTA chamber of commerce and Industry.

APTA CCI headquarters Executive President, China chapter Vice President and China International Chamber of Commerce for the Private Sector (CICCPS) President Wang Yanguo speaking on behalf of the private sector in china emphasised the fact that CICCPS – the founder member of APTA CCI is fully committed to support the development of APTA CCI and its headquarters in Beijing.

He also mentioned that CICCPS has initiated the registration process with regard to establishment of APTA CCI in China and the ministry of civil affairs of China has already approved its application. He expressed his confidence that the registration process would be completed by the end of this year.

Further speaking, he said that the Belt and Road Initiative of Chinese President Xi Jinping would immensely benefit the countries under APTA CCI and he wished to encourage Chinese trade and investment missions to visit APTA countries to explore business opportunities soon.

CICCPS the founding member of China at APTA CCI is China’s only nationwide chamber specialising in facilitating private enterprises – ‘Going Abroad’, and promoting international economic cooperation and exchange and CICCPS was approved by The State Council and The Ministry of Civil Affairs in November 2011.

India chapter Vice President and Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) North East Initiative Chairman Mahesh Sahariya speaking on behalf of India chapter commended the contribution made so far by all countries, especially the plan to set up headquarters in Beijing.

He expects APTA CCI to move forward while respecting the rights of smaller economies and he specially emphasised that when large economies take decisions it should not affect the interest of small economies which is a common occurrence all over the world.

He also expressed his confidence that deployment of staff members and resource allocation at APTA CCI will be done in a fair and equitable manner in the near future. He also said that we must also use this platform to address the non-Tariff measurers and other trade barriers within APTA countries and also attract foreign investments. Laos chapter Vice President and Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) President Oudet Souvannavong speaking on behalf of Laos chapter said that the formation of APTA CCI is indeed a great achievement and LNCCI envisages a lot of benefits to the national economy of Laos by connecting to the private sector driven by APTA CCI. Looking at trade figures, he said that Laos does trading with China alone, amounting to approximately $ 2 billion but facilitates trading between other neighboring countries and China through its existing railway and road network amounting to nearly $ 38 billion.

He also said that once the new highway and the railway line is completed this trade will be increased by 10 times more than present volumes. One important item which should be on the agenda of APTA CCI must be to pay more attention on the socioeconomic needs of least developed countries such as Laos and Mongolia.

Mongolian Chapter Vice President and Mongolian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) President Amartuvshin Otgondavaa speaking at the conference said Mongolia is a country with a relatively small population of three million, but well over five million Mongolians live in China and Russia respectively.

Mongolia’s economy at present is dependent on agriculture and livestock. However, large deposits of mineral and coal in Mongolia is expected to give an economic boom to Mongolia in the future. MNCCI is very happy to join APTA CCI for trading and investment opportunities.

Further, he said that in Mongolia, transportation is a barrier due to high costs and sees comparatively rather high non-tariff barriers that are also in existence discouraging trade with neighboring countries and MNCCI expects to discuss these issues with members of other chambers of APTA CCI.

“We are happy to say that our Government has completed the accession procedure to join APTA and now await the final approval of the Mongolian Parliament.” He also concluded his statement, mentioning that APTA CCI is to pay more attention on the socioeconomic needs of least developed countries such as Laos and Mongolia.

Sri Lankan Chapter Vice President and Chamber of Young Lankan Entrepreneurs (COYLE) immediate Past President Dinuk Hettiarachchi speaking at the session said: “My country Sri lanka welcomes the setting up of APTA CCI and the private sector grouping of APTA countries and setting up of APTA CCI headquarters in Beijing.

“Though Sri Lanka is a small country, it has a lot of potential for growth due to its strategic location, world-class apparel manufacturing facilities, business friendly environment, government protection for investors and user-friendly online visa system. Sri Lanka is the first country in the whole of south Asia to introduce market economy and also is the gate way to the Indian sub-continent.”

At the beginning of the session APTA CCI Executive Secretary and FCCISL Secretary General Ajith D. Perera gave a brief introduction about APTA CCI, and presented facts and figures of intra APTA trade and perceived benefits of APTA CCI for all participants.

All participants discussed at length and approved the working committees at APTA CCI headquarters presented by CICCPS.