Signing of a deal with Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) to expand trade with East European countries mainly targeting duty-free market access to Russia was deferred again as the text of the agreement could not be finalised yet, officials said.
A Bangladesh delegation was scheduled to visit Moscow last week to finalise the text of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), but the visit was cancelled at the last moment as top bosses of the ministry of commerce (MoC) showed reluctance.
Rather, they decided that the Bangladesh ambassador in Russia will handle the issue of text finalisation and the MoU will be signed later.
Subsequently, a copy of the draft MoU and related documents have been sent to Bangladesh embassy in Dhaka for next course of action.
However, trade officials in Dhaka argue that special expertise is needed for finalising the text of such an important deal and the ambassador may not have that kind of skills to deal with the matter.
When contacted over telephone Friday, commerce secretary Shubhashish Bose, however, told the FE that before a visit of Dhaka's trade officials to Moscow, more discussions are needed.
That's why the scheduled visit was cancelled at the last moment, he said.
However, Mr Bose could not confirm when the visit will take place and the text of MoU be finalised for signing.
Replying to a query, the secretary said signing of the MoU may boost Bangladesh's trade with EEU member states. It may also pave the way to get duty-free market access to the regional trade bloc.
According to the sources, a top official of the EEU is scheduled to visit Dhaka in March to sign the MoU if the text can be finalised by February. Now the possibility of signing the MoU in March seems to be bleak, said a trade official.
The EEU comprises five northern Eurasian countries such as Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. These nations have common customs border and a single market of 183 million people and gross domestic product of over US$ 4.0 trillion.
Trade officials said the aim of the deal between Bangladesh and EEU is to promote trade and economic relations. It also aimed at comprehensive cooperation between EEU member states and Bangladesh towards a higher volume of mutual trade and investments, and eliminating barriers, according to the draft MoU.
Despite having immense potential of Bangladeshi goods in East European countries, market access is still very limited. Presently, Bangladeshi goods have to take a detour to enter these countries mainly through Germany and Turkey.
Signing of the MoU will open the door for direct entry of goods, leading to an increase in exports to those countries, trade officials said.
"We are particularly interested to sign the MoU to create an environment to get duty-free market access to Russia for which we have been trying for years," said a trade official in Dhaka.
Bangladeshi goods have immense potential in the Russian market. Export of Bangladeshi products to Russia increased significantly during the last couple of years. Bangladesh exported goods amounting to US$ 314.29 million in the fiscal year 2015-16.
Bangladesh mainly exports apparels, jute, frozen foods, tea, leather, home textiles and ceramic products to Russia while it imports cereals, minerals, chemical products, plastic products, metal, machinery, and mechanical equipment, among others.