The agreement is expected to face resistance from the opposition party 

BBIN: The government’s fight for ratification of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicle agreement will hit a major roadblock in the upcoming Parliament session.

Days after Opposition Leader (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho spoke against the sub-regional transport agreement in a meeting with local leaders in Gelephu, transport operators reiterated to the government that it will do more harm than good, at a meeting in Thimphu yesterday.

During the meeting, which was chaired by the information and communications secretary Dasho Kinley Dorji, transport operators were briefed on the importance of the agreement.

However, both sides refused to budge from their positions. The truck operators, hence, have entrusted the issue to Parliament for a decision.

The transport operators’ continued calls for trashing the agreement give the opposition party a reason to not support the agreement.

The BBIN agreement will be reintroduced in the upcoming session of parliament along with a protocol and schedule that will contain operational and administrative details.

“The government is obliged to implement the agreement since it has already signed the agreement,” a member of the Truck and Taxi Committee of Bhutan, who requested anonymity, said after the meeting. “We will now let Parliament decide,” he said.

He said that Parliament and the government should safeguard the interest of the transport industry.

Transport operators are of the view that implementation of the BBIN agreement will kill their businesses. “Most people are worried about its impact,” he said, adding that the transport industry is not ready to accept implementation of such an agreement.

“The government is bent on implementing the agreement against the truck operators’ will,” he said. He added that it is not only transport operators who are worried about the impact of the agreement, but most sections of society.

He said that the transport operators were informed that a set of “rules and regulations” would be put in place to protect their interests. But as the agreement allows cross-border movement of vehicles, the truck operators said it would not be possible to implement such a mechanism.

“I think any rules and regulations cannot override any of the clauses in the agreement” he said. “Such rules and regulations can only be subsidiary to the agreement.”

The ministry’s chief planning officer for policy and planning, Bhimlal Suberi said the meeting was held to consult transport operators on the agreement.

“We also informed them what transpired in a recent meeting in Bangladesh,” he said. A delegation was recently in Bangladesh to discuss the issue.

The motor vehicle agreement was signed in June last year in Thimphu.

Bilateral or trilateral agreements will also have to be made between the four countries which will specify details on, for instance, the quantity of commercial or private vehicles that will be allowed into Bhutan on a reciprocal basis, entry and exit points, routes, types of permits that will be required, customs related issues, and fees, among others.

The government is of the view that the agreement would benefit Bhutan, as transportation time of goods would be decreased and costs saved. Currently, Bhutanese trucks have to unload their goods onto Bangladeshi trucks at the Indo-Bangladesh border.

The government says that the agreement carries a clause that will protect Bhutan from being swamped by vehicles from the three other countries. The clause allows for existing agreements or arrangements Bhutan has with any of the three other countries to supersede any agreement made under the agreement.

MB Subba