Bangladesh to sign 11 more PTAs and FTAs with different countries including Indonesia, Nepal by June next year, says the commerce minister
Bangladesh will sign its maiden bilateral preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Bhutan on Sunday, a move which is expected to boost the bilateral trade between the two neighbouring countries in the coming years.
“Bangladesh will sign its first PTA with Bhutan on Sunday. Although Bhutan is a small country, we have emotional attachment with Bhutan since they were the first country to recognize Bangladesh on December 6, 1971,” said Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi.
Tipu was addressing a press conference on Saturday afternoon at the Foreign Service Academy in the Capital ahead of the historic PTA signing ceremony on Sunday.
Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin spoke at the press conference while Commerce Ministry Additional Secretary Md Obaidul Azam, Foreign Ministry Additional Secretary Mashfee Binte Shams and FTA Wing Chief of the Commerce Ministry Md Shahidul Islam were also present.
The commerce minister informed that he himself would sign the agreement on behalf of Bangladesh which is also the country’s first such bilateral preferential trade agreement. Economic Affairs Minister of Bhutan Lyonpo Loknath Sharma will sign the agreement on behalf of the Bhutanese side.
He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering will join the event virtually.
On December 6, 1971, Bhutan became the first country in the world to recognize Bangladesh’s independence. Apart from making the day memorable by signing the PTA, the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries will also be celebrated on the day.
Highlighting the bilateral trade volume of the two countries, the commerce minister said the bilateral trade volume was just $12.77 million in the fiscal year 2008-09 with Bangladesh’s exports to Bhutan amounting to $0.61 million while imports from Bhutan fetching $12.16 million.
But with the passage of time, he said, the bilateral trade volume reached $49.65 million in the fiscal year 2018-19 out of which Bangladesh’s exports to Bhutan totalled $7.56 million against the imports of $42.09 million.
He said Bangladesh is the 2nd largest export destination of Bhutan and the country’s major import item from Bhutan is bolder stone for its good quality and price adding that Bangladesh is now on a “development mood”.
Tipu said the signing of the PTA with Bhutan is just the beginning; Bangladesh is expected to sign 11 more PTAs and free trade agreements (FTAs) with different countries including Indonesia and Nepal by June next year.
He said since Bangladesh would be graduating from the LDC (least developed country) status by 2024, the successive years would be challenging for the country for which there is a need for signing more PTAs and FTAs for getting maximum benefits in the long-term.
Under the PTA, some 100 Bangladeshi products will get duty-free access to the Bhutanese market, while 34 Bhutanese items will get the same facility on the Bangladeshi market.
The two neighbouring countries will later be able to add more items to the duty-free list.
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Replying to a question, the commerce minister said more Bangladeshi products would get duty-free market access with the passage of time.
The commerce secretary, while answering a query, informed that though Bangladesh would lose duty in the initial stage due to the PTA with Bhutan, it would yield good results in the mid-term and long-term as the country’s exports would get a boost thanks to the duty-free access.
“Country’s exports will get a boost while there will be more employments. As a result, the consumption will increase for which there will be more revenue collection due to VAT. We’ll gain benefits in the mid-term and long-term,” he added.
Asked whether they have made any assessment on the impact of the PTA, Secretary Jafar said that they are working on it and hopefully the country’s export would get a boost after 5 to 10 years.
The commerce secretary informed that they have already sent a summary to the prime minister for getting her nod to form a halal certification authority, a move which could multiply the export of halal goods by 10 times to $10 billion from the present level of $1 billion.
Replying to another question, he expressed his firm optimism that Bangladesh would be able to survive in the competitive market after the graduation from the LDC status.
While answering a question, Foreign Ministry Additional Secretary Mashfee said the upper house of Bhutan is yet to ratify the BBIN initiative although its lower house gave “go ahead” nod.