Bangladesh on Thursday called upon all members of IORA to gear up efforts to expand intra-country trade by removing trade barriers.
Despite the potential for trade and investment, even after more than two decades, the IORA market is not fully untapped by its member states, the minister said while addressing the meeting of the Council of Ministers on Thursday.
“The current intra-IORA trade ratio is 35 per cent which is significantly lower than corresponding levels in the EU (around 60 per cent) and North America (around 40 per cent), respectively; while it is about half the level of that in East and Southeast Asia,” the minister added.
He also stressed the need for rethinking the intra-IORA trade and investment dynamics and adopting an approach that would help untapped the intra-IORA 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 than ever important,” Dr Momen said.
As Chair, Bangladesh feels the utmost obligation to devote ourselves 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 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 in the region.
He said the world is increasingly focused on the Indian Ocean region and that is why IORA, as a regional platform, presents an opportunity for the Indian Ocean 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 prioritise the capacity building of SIDS and LDCs with the help from other Member States and Dialogue Partners” he added.
“We have to equip the whole region with the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise to harness the opportunities of the Indian Ocean to ensure inclusive development.”
He proposed to adopt the ‘IORA-Development Initiative (IDI)’ anonymously and which is currently underway focused on promoting regional integration, economic and sustainable development initiatives in the region.
He hoped that 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 millimetres annual rise in sea levels, resulting in extreme sea disasters nearly every year”.
Mr Momen said as all are vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change, a proactive role in the environmental conservation and sustainability process is required by all.
“We must collectively develop a framework along with other necessary contingency plans for the region to handle any major environmental disaster in the near future,” the minister said adding that. Disaster Risk Management is a priority area of IORA.
Fifteen minister-level representatives attended the meeting.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) is 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.
IORA member states are Australia, Bangladesh, Union of Comoros, French Republic, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Republic of Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The 23 member states of IORA and 10 dialogue partners are expected to join the ministerial and senior official meetings.
Bangladesh assumed the position of the IORA Chair at the 21st IORA COM meeting in Dhaka held on November 17, 2021, and adopted the theme of "Harnessing the opportunities of the Indian Ocean sustainably for inclusive development."