BBIN: The National Assembly yesterday decided to submit the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) to His Majesty The King for Royal Command for deliberations in a joint sitting.

The House decided this by a show of hands after deliberating the objections of the National Council (NC), which last month voted against ratifying the agreement. The upper House has raised 15 objections.

The agreement was endorsed by the Assembly during the last summer session. The NC deliberated the agreement last month.

The NC had found that the government did not carry out comprehensive consultations with stakeholders. The government however, denies the claim, saying that important stakeholders were consulted.

According to the NC, no possible impact assessment of the MVA was carried out on domestic laws as some of the provisions of the MVA contradict the provisions of the prevailing domestic laws, such as the immigration Act.

The NC is of the view that the agreement could affect the country’s culture, religion and economy and even pose security risks. One of the major observations of the committee was the “principle of reciprocity” the agreement it says is based on.

The NC could not be convinced that Bhutan would be able to ask other members to stop their vehicles at the border or take in fewer vehicles than what it would be allowed to send in their territory due to the principle of reciprocity spelt out in the agreement.

The government is bent on ratifying the agreement, when the two Houses of Parliament meet in a joint sitting on a future date. Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said the agreement was a mere framework and that only the protocol would provide for regulation of vehicular traffic under the agreement.

“All the concerns will be addressed by the protocol, which will have to be ratified by Parliament,” he said.

MPs from the ruling party stood united in justifying the merits and trying to allay fears of possible negative implications of the agreement. Some MPs said it would be advantageous to have the agreement in place for regulation of vehicles from outside the country.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said ratification of the agreement will offer opportunities in the export sector and strengthen trade in the sub-region. He said the existing bilateral arrangements with India would remain the same even after ratifying the agreement.

The government also says that implementation with Nepal and Bangladesh will be deferred.

Meanwhile, the House also endorsed the Trade, Commerce and Transit Agreement between Bhutan and India. All the 43 members present in the House voted for the trade agreement.

MB Subba