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D-8 ministers move to facilitate improved trade, cooperation
By Abdul Khalik and Riyadi Suparno
Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, The Jakarta Post:
Ministers from Developing Eight (D-8) countries endorsed Thursday a proposal to boost trade and investment among member countries by improving visa facilities, strengthening the D-8 secretariat and approving the planned signing of two agreements on trade and customs.
Speaking to journalists after the ministerial meeting, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said the ministers agreed to encourage movement of people within D-8 countries, especially businessmen, by giving better visa facilities.
"We agreed that member countries will expedite the ratification of the Agreement on Easing Visa Procedures, especially for D-8 businesspeople," Hassan said.
Some member countries have actually drawn up their own arrangements for reciprocal visa facilities. Indonesia and Iran, for example, have such an arrangement, whereby Indonesians could visit Iran without a visa for two weeks and Iranians visiting Indonesia could get a visa on arrival.
Besides Indonesia and Iran, the other six D-8 members are Bangladesh, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.
Earlier in the day, D-8 businesspeople gathering here for the business forum complained about business visas and visa procedures, which they said had hampered their movement between D-8 countries.
Aside from easing visa procedures, Hassan said the ministers had agreed to raise the seniority of the head of the D-8 group by creating a secretary-general to replace the position of D-8 executive director. In addition, the group will also appoint a director and an economist to assist the secretary-general.
"I cannot announce who will be the secretary-general now because some countries have expressed an interest in nominating a candidate for the position," Hassan said.
In addition to Indonesia, Iran, as the outgoing D-8 chair, has insisted that the country be accorded the position of secretary-general to ensure continuity of D-8 programs, especially those already agreed upon during the fourth D-8 summit in Tehran.
Hassan also said that the ministers endorsed two landmark agreements to boost trade, i.e. the preferential trade agreement, which should pave the way for member countries to cut tariffs to between 10 and 25 percent within four years for developing member countries and eight years for least developed members, as well as an agreement on administrative assistance in customs matters to facilitate the smooth flow of goods.
The ministers also agreed on other pressing issues such as energy diversification, including nuclear power, developing countries' debt, global trade negotiations under the World Trade Organization, the digital divide and the spread of pandemic diseases. The ministers also renewed their commitment to continue working together to enhance D-8 cooperation.
All these issues are incorporated in the Bali Declaration that will be adopted by D-8 heads of state and governments during their summit here Saturday.
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