Says Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi
The Comprehensive Economic Partnership (CEPA) with India is crucial to Bangladesh retaining its trade benefits upon graduation from the least-developed country bracket, said Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi yesterday.
The issue regarding CEPA will be tabled for further discussion at a Bangladesh and India secretary-level talk in the capital today.
Bangladesh also will focus on the withdrawal of anti-dumping duty on jute imports and other non-tariff barriers to improve bilateral trade between the two countries.
The minister came up with the remarks after a courtesy meeting with Anup Wadhawan, the Indian commerce secretary, at his secretariat office yesterday.
Wadhawan and Md Jafar Uddin, his Bangladeshi counterpart, will take part in the meeting.
The meeting is crucial for strengthening bilateral trade and easing barriers ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh on March 26.
Bangladesh will graduate to a developing country by 2026 and will get three years to enjoy the trade benefits as enjoyed as an LDC, Munshi said.
“After 2029, we will face tough competition due to the erosion of duty benefits.”
India is the second-largest trading partner of Bangladesh after China. Bangladesh enjoys duty-free market access on all goods save for 25 alcoholic beverages. About 13 per cent of Bangladesh total imports are from India.
Bangladesh’s imports from India stood at $5.80 billion in fiscal 2019-20, down 24.2 per cent year-on-year, according to data from the Bangladesh Bank.
Its exports to India during the year fetched $1.1 billion, down about 12.2 per cent from a year earlier, as per data from the Export Promotion Bureau.
“We enjoy different types of trade facilities from India but CEPA is very important for us in the long run, for expansion of trade and commerce, Munshi said.
It will be broadly discussed in today’s meeting.
To face the post-graduation challenges regarding the trade benefits, the country is focusing on preferential trade agreement, free trade agreement as well as bilateral and multilateral agreements.
The issues of value addition of edible oil exported to India and acceptance of certification provided by the EPB will also be discussed.
“They are not accepting our certification.”
The meeting will also hold talks on opening more border haats, with three new ones on the way, Munshi added.
The CEPA is a little different from the other trade agreements as it covers a wide range of trade issues such as services, investment, e-commerce and intellectual property rights, Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin told Dhaka Tribune.
"As graduation will reduce our trade benefits by a great deal, we will negotiate the CEPA in the meeting to retain the benefits in the post-graduation era.”
The meeting will address another important issue: the use of ports to ease trade connectivity, he added.
During the meeting, Wadhawan said that they have come here with a positive attitude to improve trade relations and remove barriers.
He also told the minister that Indian investors want to invest in Bangladesh’s automobile and food processing sectors.