Due to India's slapping of a five-year antidumping duty on Bangladesh-origin jute and jute goods since 20017, the volume of export of these items to that country has declined markedly. As a result, in Bangladesh, both the producers of jute and jute goods and the business, especially, the export of those items suffered. It would be worth noting here that a section of Indian jute traders complained that they were being unfairly treated as Bangladeshi jute goods exporters were getting government protection. This prompted India's imposition of antidumping duty on Bangladeshi jute goods in 2017. But their argument was misplaced because whatever Bangladeshi jute goods exporters were getting from the government was within the bounds of WTO rules. In fact, business in jute and jute goods on either side of the border was suffering. So, it was justifiably expected that the Indian authorities would not extend the term of the current protectionist measure further at the end of its expiry in January, 2023. To that end, ministers concerned from Bangladesh communicated with their Indian counterparts. The Bangladesh government officials in question reportedly got positive signals from the Indian side on the issue.
In this context, a prior indication was also reportedly given by the Indian commerce secretary that there was the possibility of some positive developments on the matter during Bangladesh prime minister's visit to India last year. However, things did not progress in the expected manner as the India-Bangladesh joint statement issued during Bangladesh prime minister's visit to that country later made it amply evident. Amid these developments, the Indian authorities through a notification issued recently (December 30, 2022) extended the term of the antidumping duties on Bangladeshi jute and jute goods for another five years, the reports say. The protectionist measure thus imposed by India, reportedly, would come into force from the date that the notice was issued.
Obviously, the news is quite a jolt for the exporters and producer of jute and jute goods in Bangladesh. It is more so because, during the two previous fiscal years (FY 21 and FY 22), the export trade in jute and jute goods had been struggling hard to regain its pre-pandemic momentum. As the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data show, the export earnings from the jute sector in those two previous fiscals were around US$1.0 billion marking underperformance as the figures were rather below the targets set by the government. Needless to say, a host of factors including global inflation, high freight charges and the Russia-Ukraine war were behind the lack of performance by the sector. Notably, the war negatively impacted our jute export as Russia and Ukraine were two important export markets for Bangladeshi jute products. Now India has imposed this protectionist tariff on the export of our jute-based commodities afresh.
On this score, during the commerce ministerial level conference held earlier (between December 22 and 23) in Delhi, India, the antidumping issue affecting Bangladesh's jute goods export figured prominently. Our commerce minister who led the Bangladesh delegation at that conference did reportedly raise the possibility of Bangladesh's going to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for settling the issue in case India went back on its assurance of not extending the term of antidumping duty further. So, the government should take a prudent approach towards resolving the problem created by India's imposition of antidumping duty on the export of Bangladeshi jute products and thereby protect the local jute sector.