Dhaka to take tough stand on trade issues with Delhi

SYFUL ISLAM and REZAUL KARIM | Monday, 8 March 2021

Bangladesh is set to take an aggressive stance while discussing two major trade-related pending issues at the commerce secretary-level meeting with India, scheduled for today (Monday) in Dhaka, officials said.

The issues are India's newly introduced customs rules and anti-dumping duty (ADD).

Bangladesh is putting the new Indian customs rules on top of the meeting agenda, followed by imposition of anti-dumping and countervailing duties on several Bangladeshi items, said the officials.

Following the formulation of such rules, Dhaka on several occasions in the recent past has voiced its concern over the adverse impact of the same on the country's exports to the neighbouring giant market. India is yet to pay any heed to Bangladesh's worries.

The harmonisation of standards and mutual recognition of standards, cooperation under different common regional forum, facilitation of trade by removing non-tariff barriers and, import and export restrictions will also govern the meeting.

A joint study on the signing of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries, enhancing the number of border haats (markets) and volume of trade through such haats, and expansion of port facilities are also on the agenda.

Trade officials in Dhaka said that New Delhi in September last framed the Customs Rules-2020, which is now administering the rules of origin under all trade agreements signed by India.

The new rules have made getting tariff preference in the Indian market tougher for the countries having preferential deals with it, they added.

Bangladesh is supposed to enjoy tariff preferences in the Indian market under the regional pacts like South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), and also the duty-free and quota-free scheme of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

However, the new Indian rules contradict the rules of origin criteria of those pacts, creating a new barrier for Bangladesh to avail of the existing preferences in the Indian market.

Presently, the Indian anti-dumping and countervailing duties are applicable to export of at least three Bangladeshi items -- jute goods, hydrogen peroxide, and fishing net.

India slapped the ADD on Bangladesh's jute yarn, hessian and bags, ranging between US$19 and $352 per tonne, in January 2017.

A similar duty, ranging between $27.81 and $91.47 per tonne, was also imposed on export of hydrogen peroxide to India from Bangladesh in April 2017.

In 2018, India also put anti-dumping duty, $2.69 per kilogramme, on fishing net, exported from Bangladesh to its domestic market.

Bangladesh failed to get the duties removed despite scores of consultations with India for years.

A senior commerce ministry official said India always brands anti-dumping issue as a quasi-judicial matter and do not want to resolve it through discussion.

This is seriously hampering the export of Bangladesh's jute goods, hydrogen peroxide, and fishing net there, he said.

Data show that Bangladesh exported goods worth US$1.09 billion to India and imported goods worth $5.77 billion in the fiscal year 2019-20.

The trade gap between the two countries is widening every year and may further enlarge due to the new customs rules, said the commerce ministry official.

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