Focus on border trade with Myanmar to boost `Act East’ policy: study

15 Jun 2016


Harnessing the potential of border trade between India and Myanmar could give a fresh impetus to India's `Act East' policy, according to a study brought out by the union commerce ministry.

'Enhancing India-Myanmar Border Trade: Policy and Implementation Measures', brought out by the commerce ministry's Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), provides a detailed analysis for enhancing trade through land borders between India and Myanmar. It also suggests policy measures to achieve this objectives and also outlines relevant implementation measures.

Commerce secretary  Rita Teaotia launched the study at an event organised by RIS in Delhi today.

Myanmar is uniquely placed – geographically, economically and strategically and India and Myanmar not only share national borders but also historical, cultural and civilizational linkages, which gives an added impetus to economic linkages and production spaces, she pointed out.

Myanmar has the distinct potential to serve as a land-bridge between India and South-east Asian region, Teaotia said.

Teaotia highlighted that border trade between India and Myanmar through the land routes has seen a paradigm shift from barter to normal trade and the list of restricted items now stands abolished.

She also underscored the need for making trade an instrument for achieving developmental objectives in the border areas through employment generation. Investment in infrastructure on both sides was highlighted as an essential prerequisite for trade.

A distinguishing feature of India's border trade with Myanmar and normal trade is that, in case of border trade both import and export growth exceed growth rates in overall bilateral trade, said Ravi Capoor, joint secretary in the commerce ministry.

Besides, he said, integration with Myanmar for development of Myanmar will help India access ASEAN and other markets which Myanmar has preferential access.

Capoor also mentioned that the study adopts an integrated approach towards border trade by focusing on trade in goods, trade in services, cross-border investment, trade facilitation, and infrastructure, at the India-Myanmar border region and since the study was conducted by combining desk-top research with field survey and stakeholders' consultation, in a quest to make the analysis realistic and the recommendations practical.

He further emphasized that it is time that India adopted a 'fast-track' approach to implement policy recommendations that could address the constraints acting upon border trade in particular and development of the region in general.

The study suggests a new framework of 'peace-creating prosperity' whereby focusing on employment generation in the region could unlock the potential that the region possesses. It is in this backdrop that the enabling conditions to augment border trade could well serve as a driver for greater economic activities in the region and at the border, making newer employment opportunities for the youth a real possibility, and preventing them from resorting to unfair means of livelihood.

One of the mechanisms to increase border trade are the Border Haats that play a facilitating role of enabling local trade and increasing people-to-people contacts and promoting the well-being of the people in areas of difficult access across the borders of two countries. Currently, the authorities have agreed upon 10 locations to be set up as Border Haats.

To improve border trade which can be conducted in an unfettered way as 'normal trade' actions focusing on laboratory testing at border, warehousing and storage facilities, certificate of origin related facilities, integrated check posts, border haats, trade promotion activities and most importantly improving banking facilities and bridging information gap need to be stepped-up along with focusing on security situation in the region, the study adds.

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