Indian Ocean Rim nations to pursue open regionalism to boost growth

Port Louis, July 5 (IANS) Trade and industry ministers of member countries and dialogue partners of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC) Friday agreed to push trade within the grouping to promote economic cooperation and development in the strategic Indian Ocean region.

After their two-day meeting here, the ministers said they would encourage "open regionalism" and harmonise trade practices in line with international norms and lower barriers to trade.

They also agreed to build on the complementarities and identify key growth sectors.

Voicing concern over the weak global economic environment and how low rates of growth in advanced economies have impacted developing economies through slower international trade and lesser FDI inflows, they said member nations should adopt measures, consistent with their WTO obligations to stimulate growth and development in the region.

India and Mauritius co-hosted the first economic and business conference under the theme of "Deepening Economic Linkages for Balanced, Inclusive & Sustainable Growth". The meeting brought together business representatives from across the Indian Ocean Rim.

The IORARC has 20 members, of which India and Australia are the largest economies. Through it pass some of the most important energy transport routes from Middle East to South-East and East Asia, and securing these routes has become a global priority. In recent years, the United States, Britain, France, China, Japan and Egypt have become "dialogue partners" of the IORARC.

India Thursday called for a common maritime security enforcement regime and liberal visa regimes to boost trade and investment. Pitching for deeper trade ties among member nations, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said India was prepared to play an enhanced role on the high seas to boost trade without militarising the region.

"India can play a crucial role for enhanced regional trade through high seas which calls for concerted action on a common maritime enforcement regime that provides security and combats piracy without militarisation of the peaceful region," said Sharma.

In a communique issued at the end of the conference, the ministers said the initiatives taken at the conference should facilitate interaction between trade and investment promotion bodies of member-states.

"We recognise the value of ongoing dialogue among ministers of economy, trade and industries as an integral part of economic dialogue involving the national chambers of commerce and industry."

A study on "Trade and Investment Prospects of the IOR-ARC in the New Millennium", released during the 2011 council of ministers meeting in Bangalore, has highlighted 10 areas of cooperation namely trade cooperation, tariffs, food sector trade, standards cooperation, regional value chains, mining, pharmaceutical and traditional medicine, coordination among EXIM Banks, investment and trade facilitation.

"We hope member states cooperate further in these sectors and emerging ones such as the ocean economy," said the communique.

The IOR-ARC economic and business conference was held in keeping with the decisions taken by the IOR Business Forum held in Gurgaon, India, during the IOR-ARC Council of Ministers and Related Meetings in October-November 2012.

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