a year ago

Commerce ministry to coordinate transit, multimodal connectivity matters

Experts suggest well-thought-out deals as turfs extend far off

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It's now commerce ministry's job to coordinate connectivity and transit affairs in line with the allocation of business, a government meeting decides as many trans-border communications deals are being dealt with.

Officials say the decision comes as different ministries and divisions indulge in completion of transit-or connectivity-related various bilateral and multilateral deals and memorandum of understanding in scattered ways.

The Ministry of Commerce (MoC) thinks that these activities need proper coordination to make the most of these pacts involving trade and commerce and transportation.

Senior Secretary of the commerce ministry Tapan Kanti Ghosh chaired the inter-ministerial meeting which discussed that the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN), Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM), South Asian Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Regional Integration, Asian Highways, Silk Road, and One-Belt, One-Road arrangements are some of the initiatives where other ministries and divisions have signed various documents.

But the 'Allocation of Business among different ministries and divisions (schedule 1 of the Rules of Business 1996, revised in April 2017)' titled 'Transit Trade through Bangladesh' has allocated the authority of completion of commercial transit-related activities to the ministry of commerce.

The meeting was told that the ministry of shipping had signed 15 instruments with India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Thailand for setting up regional connectivity.

Also, the ministry has taken initiative to sign deal on the setting up of bilateral waterway connectivity with far-off countries like Qatar and Cyprus.

A representative of the ministry of railway in the meeting said presently Bangladesh has rail communications with India on five routes and works are underway to set up two more cross-border routes.

"Besides, under the trilateral protocol signed in 1976 transit traffic system with Nepal also exists," he apprised the inter-ministerial meeting.

A representative of the National Board of Revenue (NBR) pointed out that many ministries had taken different activities and projects on connectivity and transit issues on their own, though the matters are of high national stakes.

He felt that as lead ministry, the ministry of commerce in consultation with the ministry of foreign affairs could take decision on these issues to make those more beneficial in the case of trade and commerce.

The NBR man also underscored the need for prior reckonings before striking deals to determine whether those will have negative impact on country's trade and economy.

A senior commerce ministry official told the FE the issue of trade-related transit must not be isolated rather should be coordinated in national interest.

"Due to the selection of different routes for different countries in the case of regional communications Bangladesh is not getting expected results," he says, indicating the fault- line in trans-border transportation.

He thinks that the transit and connectivity issues should be coordinated under the National Trade Facilitation Committee which is led by the commerce minister.

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