Bangladesh and Bhutan are set to sign an agreement and a protocol to offer each other multi-modal transit facilities aimed at boosting bilateral trade.
A Bangladesh delegation, led by Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, was already on its way to Bhutan where the deals are expected to be signed likely tomorrow (Wednesday), a senior commerce ministry official said on Monday.
With the signing of the agreements, Bhutan would be another neighbouring country after India that will enjoy the transit facilities at nine customs points of the land, rail, air and river routes in Bangladesh.
In return, Bhutan would allow Bangladesh to use its eight transit routes for the export and import of goods.
The official said the National Board of Revenue (NBR) will have to issue Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) detailing the procedures for goods movement through using the transit routes.
Initially, the transit facilities are unlikely to be a win-win situation as Bhutanese traders would reach the Indian market and onward, he said, but it would give a positive message to the international community about Bangladesh's approach towards trade liberalisation.
Earlier in October 2018, Bangladesh and India signed the 'Agreement on the use of Chattogram and Mongla seaports for movement of goods to and from India' mainly to provide transshipment facilities to India for carrying goods to its Northeastern states using the Bangladeshi ports.
Under the latest agreements with Bhutan, both the countries will have to follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to use the transit facilities. Customs would fix specific fees of documents, lock, scanner and others for using the transit.
According to an existing gazette of the NBR, document processing and transit charge has been set at Tk 30 per chalan, and fees for transshipment have been fixed at Tk 20 per tonne.
Charges for security have been set at Tk 100 per tonne, escort Tk 50 per tonne, and other administrative charges Tk 100 per tonne. Container scanning fee has been set at Tk 254 per container for existing Indian transit.
Officials familiar with the development said the transit fees set for Indian goods in 2020 may not remain same in case of Bhutan due to its geographical location.
The NBR may set the transit fees for Bhutan as per the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
As per draft agreements that the cabinet approved last week, Bhutan would be able to use Chilmari, Nakugaon, Noonkhawa, Haluaghat, Daikhawa, Banglabandha, Burimari, Tamabil and Narayanganj as the transit points.
On Bhutanese side, Bangladesh would be allowed to use Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu, Phuentshogling, Samtse, Pelzomthang (Nganglam), Gomtu (Phuentshogpelri), Paro International Airport and Gelephu Airport.
Road routes include Samtse/Gomtu/Phuentshogling-Burimari-Rangpur-Bogura-Hatikamrul-Dhaka-Chattogram or Chattogram-Dhaka-Hatikamrul-Bogura-Rangpur-Burimari-Samtse/Gomtu/ Phuentshogling/ Gelephu.
Another designated transit road route would be Samtse/Gomtu/Phuentshogling/Gelephu-Phulbari-Banglabandha-Rangpur-Bogra-Hatikamrul-Dhaka-Chattogram.
Rail routes would be Mongla-Khulna-Nawapara-Jashore-Bheramara-Ishordi-Santahar-Parbotipur-Sylhet-Chilahati-Samtse/Gomtu/ Phuentshogling/ Gelephu or Chattogram-Laksam-Cumilla-Akaura-Dhaka-Sirajgaj-Bogra-Kaunia-Lalmonirhat-Burimari-Samtse/Gomtu/ Phuentshogling/Gelephu.
Another rail route is Samtse/Gomtu/ Phuentshogling/Gelephu-Chilahati-Syedpur-Parbotipur-Shantahar-Ishwardi-Bheramara-Jashore-Nawapara-Khulna-Mongla.
The transit country reserves its rights to amend or modify the designated transit routes and types of vehicles for plying through any designated routes in consultation with the contracting party any time it deems necessary.
Under the agreement, river routes would be covered by memorandum of understanding (MoU) on use of inland waterways for transportation of goods under bilateral trade and transit cargo between Bangladesh and Bhutan. Air routes would be covered by air services agreement and MoUs signed between the two countries.