Some 100 Bangladeshi products would get duty-free access to the Bhutanese market under a preferential trade agreement (PTA), which is scheduled to be signed on Sunday.
Meanwhile, 34 Bhutanese items would get the same facility to the Bangladeshi market. The two neighbouring countries would later be able to add more items to the duty-free list, reports BSS.
Bangladesh will sign its first such bilateral preferential trade agreement with Bhutan through a ceremony on Sunday. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering will join the event virtually.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi and Economic Affairs Minister of Bhutan Lyonpo Loknath Sharma would sign the agreement on behalf of their respective countries.
Tipu Munshi addressed a press conference on Saturday afternoon at the Foreign Service Academy in the Capital ahead of the historic PTA signing ceremony.
“Bangladesh will sign its first PTA with Bhutan tomorrow (on Sunday). Although Bhutan is a small country, we’ve an emotional attachment with Bhutan since they were the first country to recognize Bangladesh on December 6, 1971,” he said at the press conference.
On 6 December, 1971, Bhutan became the first country in the world to recognise 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 fiscal year (2008-09) with Bangladesh’s exports to Bhutan amounting $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 fiscal year (2018-19) out of which Bangladesh’s exports to Bhutan totaled $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 a bolder stone for its good quality and price adding that Bangladesh is now in a ‘development mood’.
Tipu said the signing of the PTA with Bhutan is just the beginning while 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 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.
Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin also spoke at the press conference. Commerce ministry’s 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.
Replying to a question, the commerce secretary 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 employment. 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.
When asked whether they have made any assessment on the impact of the PTA, 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.
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.