The Assembly will endorse the agreement on December 5

Assembly: Deliberating on the Indo-Bhutan Trade, Commerce and Transit Agreement in the National Assembly yesterday, parliamentarians hailed the good relations between the two neighbours.

The renewed agreement was signed on November 12 by economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji and Indian state minister for commerce and industry Nirmala Sitharaman in Thimphu.

Presenting the agreement in the House, economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji said a new Article has been added, while two have been revised to suit the needs of the changing times. The new article requires the completion of internal ratification procedures of both countries for the agreement to come into force.

The revised Article 8 states that both countries should undertake measures to ensure proper documentation of trade data, and exchange them periodically. The two sides will also put in mechanisms to reconcile those data at regular intervals.

Article 11, which has also been revised, provides that either country will not impose prohibition on export of essential food items to the other country provided they meet reasonable end user requirements.

MPs said the new bilateral trade agreement will further strengthen the relations between the two countries.

The Lamgong-Wangchang MP Khandu Wangchuk said Bhutan has benefited from the good relations between the two countries. He said Indo-Bhutan relations have been excellent since the independence of India in 1947.

Khandu Wangchuk said India, which was not so rich in the early years of its independence, assured Bhutan of its assistance during the visit of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru to Bhutan. India, he said, was one of the forces behind Bhutan’s economic development.

He thanked the two governments for having renewed the agreement that he said is the product of the exemplary relations. “Relations between the two countries are exemplary,” he said.

Hailing the Indo-Bhutan relations, Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said the renewal of the agreement further enhanced the strong ties. He said the agreement was an outcome of the good relations Bhutan enjoys with India.

“We should be proud of and give continuity to this good relations,” Dorji Wangdi said.

The Panbang MP suggested that perishable exports should be provided preferential treatment in the trade pact.

The agreement provides for a free trade regime between two countries. The agreement also provides for duty free transit of Bhutanese merchandise for trade with third countries.

The agreement will also provide for adding additional exit/entry points for Bhutan’s trade with other countries.

The bilateral trade agreement expired in July. But the validity was extended with effect from July 29, 2016 for a period of one year or till the new agreement comes into force.

The agreement was renewed on July 29, 2006 for a period of ten years.

The first Agreement on Trade and Commerce between Bhutan and India was signed in 1972. Since then, the agreement has been renewed four times.

MB Subba