Dhaka objects to Delhi's fresh non-tariff barriers

SYFUL ISLAM | Saturday, 20 February 2021

Bangladesh has raised an objection to India's request for increased verification of country-of-origin (CoO) certificates and attachment of a questionnaire to those since those will be in violation of the SAFTA rules.

Dhaka termed the Delhi's measures a new type of non-tariff barrier which would hamper Bangladesh's export to India.

During a two-day bilateral trade consultation, Bangladesh sought third-party opinion as the two countries failed to address the anti-dumping duty issue for over three and a half years.

A meeting of the Bangladesh-India Joint Working Group on Trade was hosted virtually on February 16-17 where Dhaka sought remedies to these issues, officials said.

Delhi, however, did not give any clear response to these matters.

Commerce ministry additional secretary Shahidul Islam led the Bangladesh side while commerce department joint secretary Amitabh Kumar the Indian side in the meeting.

"We've told them that we can't go beyond SAFTA rules. We can't give you documents whatever you ask under any other laws," said Mr Islam on Friday.

On anti-dumping duty on jute, he said, Bangladesh requested a result soon and proposed that opinion could be sought from a third party, if needed, having expertise in WTO issues.

"We want a solution through discussion instead of going to the World Trade Organisation for dispute resolution," he told the FE.

Mr Islam said Delhi did not respond immediately to these matters but it would send a written reply soon.

Officials said Delhi enacted the new Customs Rules-2020 last September, aiming to administer the rules of origin under all trade agreements signed by India.

The rules have made it tough for countries having preferential deals to get tariff preference in India.

The new policy is conflicting with the rules of origin of regional pacts like South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement and also the duty-free quota-free scheme of the WTO.

Bangladesh usually enjoys tariff preference in the Indian market under these three pacts.

As the new rules have become effective, Delhi started creating multiple barriers to discourage traders to seek tariff preference.

India has recently raised the number of requests, seeking verification of CoO certificates.

At the same time, it also asked for increased numbers of documents in the name of checking the certificates.

A senior official, who attended the meeting, told the FE that Dhaka apprised the India side of the increased numbers of verification requests.

"You can definitely send verification requests when necessary. But at the same time, you should keep in mind the number of such requests is being sent," a Bangladesh official was quoted as saying in the meeting.

In some cases, according to him, Delhi sends a questioner with verification requests which, according to the SAFTA rules of origin, is not acceptable.

Sources said Dhaka also asked Delhi to mention the concrete reasons behind its CoO verification requests.

In January 2017, India slapped anti-dumping duty on Bangladesh's jute yarn, hessian and bags, ranging between $19 and $352 per tonne, citing the dumping issue.

The giant neighbour did not lift the duty despite repeated requests and consultations.

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