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Exports of Plastic Toys Are on the Verge of Becoming the Country’s Next Big Earner


June 8, 2022

The plastic toy business might play a crucial role in extending Bangladesh’s export portfolio, and its exports are projected to reach $466.31 million by 2030 if the present growth of 24%b continues. According to Md Jashim Uddin, President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, “Bangladesh might become the world’s 28th largest exporter of toys if the current growth rate continues”.

To reach this milestone, local producers must take the required steps to increase the production of world-class products and explore new markets. “Therefore, we are continually working to advance this industry. For instance, attempts are made to decrease the import tax on raw materials”, Mr. Jashim Uddin quoted in a seminar titled “Plastic Toy Industries of Bangladesh: A Potential Export Diversification Sector,”. The event was co-hosted by the Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BPGMEA) and Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J), a World Bank Group-funded project of the commerce ministry. The event was hosted to highlight the progress made in the local production of plastic toys at the Centre for Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) auditorium in Dhaka. Currently, Spain is Bangladesh’s largest export market for plastic toys, while Italy and France are tied for second place.

During July,2021 to April,2022 of the current fiscal year, exports of plastic products reached $128.77 million, with toys accounting for around $37.10 million, which is the 29% of the total. According to Ferdous Ara Begum, CEO of Business Initiative Leading Development, “ Bangladeshi toys have already reached Europe and North America. With such achievements, it’s expected that the toy subsector of the plastics industry might play a significant role in expanding non-traditional exports.”

Shamim Ahmed, the president of the BPGMEA, asked for the government’s cooperation in the further development of the toy sector. He said, “This labor-intensive business gives several employment prospects and it will certainly play a significant role in the country’s exports in the future.”

About a decade ago, 90 percent of Bangladesh’s toys were imported from abroad, but now the quantity has come down to only 10 percent. Mr. Shamim Ahmed suggested that the tariff on imported toys should be increased from $7.5 per kilogram to $20 per kilogram. Former BPGMEA president Yusuf Ashraf was also present at the event and urged everyone to work together to find answers to different problems, including the creation of counterfeit goods. “Although the toy market has existed for decades, not a single brand of substance has yet left Bangladesh. We are still satisfied with exporting non-branded toys” according to Mansurul Alam, project director of the EC4J.

Alam continued by stating that if local manufacturers wish to compete with internationally famous companies, they must produce products of the highest quality. “In order to accomplish this, the government will need to implement a number of policy initiatives, such as infrastructure cooperation and the decrease of taxes on ancillary imports,” he explained.

Tapan Kanti Ghosh, secretary of the ministry of commerce, stated that the plastic toy business is fast expanding and simultaneously boosting investment in the country. He guaranteed that the government will provide all sorts of assistance to bolster the sector and transform it into an export engine. With a notation of compliance with industry standards that has become a key concern in international trade, Ghosh stated that local toy companies must be modernized and made global market-ready products.

At the event, the BPGMEA urged the government to eliminate the extra levy on all types of toy components to promote the growth of the industry. There are over 100 toy manufacturers in the country, 12 of which are big corporations, and the market is estimated to be worth approximately Tk 7,000 crore. Local producers provide approximately Tk 4,000 crore, while the remainder is imported.

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Ahsan Habib Tuhin

18 June, 2022, 09:55 pm

Last modified: 18 June, 2022, 10:00 pm

Saif Powertec to acquire a company in UAE to provide marine supply chain solutions



Saif Powertec Limited is going to acquire a marine supply chain solutions provider company which was set up this year in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by Saif Power Group and Dubai-based investors.

To provide cost-effective shipping and logistic solutions to its clients from abroad, Saif Powertec's board at a meeting on 16 June decided to acquire all shares of Saif Maritime LLC for Tk1.26 crore.

After the acquisition, Saif Powertec expects revenue of Tk26 crore and profit of Tk4 crore from Saif Maritime which will be treated as a full subsidiary company of its acquirer.

Saif Powertec, a concern of Saif Power Group, whose shares were traded at Tk34.60 each on the Dhaka Stock Exchange on 16 June, 9.15% higher than the previous session.

Currently, Saif Powertec is engaged in various types of business such as port terminal operation, installation of power plants, and producing and selling batteries and plastic goods.

A senior officer of the company, seeking anonymity, said, "Saif Powertec wants to engage in global marine supply chain solutions service. But, it is not possible to enter the global chain from the country. So a company has been set up in Dubai. From there it is easy to provide logistical services to the goods transport system."

"Saif Maritime will provide all kinds of logistics services for transporting goods by land and sea from the UAE. It is expected that the company will start operations this year," he added.

Earlier, in March this year, Saif Powertec signed an agreement with UAE-based Safeen Feeder Limited to operate the business in the shipping and logistics sector abroad.

The company will operate eight vessels to transport imported goods from Fujairah Port of the UAE to Chattogram and Mongla ports, and other ports in South-East Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

The company has also decided to build a new inland container depot (ICD) with an estimated expense of Tk300 crore. It is also going to start a gas and oil exploration business by investing Tk473 crore as the first local private company in this field.

Saif Powertec earned Tk233 crore from the port operation and Tk64 crore from selling batteries at the end of the first nine months of fiscal 2021-22. During the period, its consolidated profit was Tk42 crore.

However, its debt burden increased alarmingly. In the last five years, its borrowing from banks and non-banking financial institutions increased by 745% to Tk947 crore.

A senior analyst of a leading brokerage firm said that the business ventures that the company has undertaken have potential. But now they are in high debt. The company does not seem financially strong enough to repay loan instalments that are approaching. "So if the new business is not done successfully, the company will be under financial pressure," he added.

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Saudi Arabia wants direct shipping between Ctg-Jeddah

Star Digital Report

Mon Jun 27, 2022 08:05 PM Last update on: Mon Jun 27, 2022 08:40 PM


Saudi Arabia wants direct shipping between Chattogram and Jeddah as the Middle Eastern country is eager to strengthen economic relations in the areas of trade and investment, culture, education and in tourism.

Saudi Ambassador to Bangladesh Essa Youssef Essa Al Duhailan communicated this when he called on State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam at the foreign ministry today.

Bangladesh exports products worth about USD 400 million to Saudi Arabia, which is home to about two million Bangladeshis. The country has shown increased interest in investing in Bangladesh in recent times.

During the meeting, Saudi Ambassador congratulated the Bangladesh government for the successful completion of Padma Multipurpose Bridge under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Shahriar Alam thanked the Saudi government for necessary arrangements, including pre-immigration facilities for pilgrims in Dhaka Airport.

He expressed his satisfaction on the excellent relations between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia in bilateral and multilateral sectors.

He also thanked the ambassador for his efforts in promoting relations between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.

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Sign deals now for continued duty privilege to Canada

Canada-Bangladesh Joint Working Group suggests

Star Business Report

Sat Jul 2, 2022 04:18 PM Last update on: Sat Jul 2, 2022 04:24 PM

The Canada-Bangladesh Joint Working Group (JWG) has suggested the government for signing new business deals with Canada as the preferential duty privilege provided by the North American country comes to an end next year.

The general preferential tariffs with Canada will expire in 2023, said the JWG.

For continuing the duty-free access to Canadian market, the Canada-Bangladesh Joint Working Group on Strengthening Commercial Relations urged the Bangladesh government to complete negotiations on a new agreement by this time.

The committee came up with this call during the meeting virtually held on Wednesday night.

During the meeting, Canadian Co-Chair Nuzhat Tam-Zaman recommended launching an annual Canada-Bangladesh Forum as a launching pad for the JWG.

The recommendations from Canada include easier visa processing, electronic visa for Bangladeshis, branding the development stories of Bangladesh to Canadian investors and forming Canada Bangladesh cross-border e-commerce platform.

Md Jashim Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) is providing a number of services through One-Stop Service platform.

Doing business in Bangladesh is easier now. Hence, the FBCCI chief called the Canadian entrepreneurs to invest in Bangladesh.

Agriculture and technology are the sectors with the most potential, he informed.

Bangladesh High Commissioner to Canada Khalilur Rahman informed that the foreign ministry is working to ease the Canadian visa processing for Bangladesh.

Masud Rahman, president of Canada Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, suggested establishing a 100- acre Canadian industrial zone in Bangabandhu Industrial City to attract the Canadian investors.

He proposed establishing Canadian visa office in Dhaka, signing investment promotion and protection agreements, FTA and forming a consultative committee in a report submitted in the meeting.

Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Lilly Nicholls suggested identifying the obstacles for Canadian companies to invest in Bangladesh.

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Prospect of joining RCEP: BD accession to pay dividend

 SYFUL ISLAM and REZAUL KARIM | Published:  July 02, 2022 08:27:57 | Updated:  July 02, 2022 21:07:27


Bangladesh's export may grow by 17 per cent and gross domestic product (GDP) 0.26 per cent if a free-trade agreement (FTA) is signed with member-states of the emerging Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) bloc.

The RCEP deal, which came into force in January this year, is considered high-quality, modern and comprehensive FTA between ten member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its five FTA partners.

The ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, while its FTA partners are Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and Korea.

An outstanding feature of the RCEP is that it represents world's largest FTA, comprising about 30 per cent of global GDP and about a third of the world population.

The economic cooperation bloc covers 2.3 billion people, contributes US$25.8 trillion or about 30 per cent of global GDP, and accounts for $12.7 trillion or over a quarter of global trade in goods and services, and 31 per cent of global foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows.

A recent study of the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) shows that bilateral trade of Bangladesh with RCEP member-countries is mostly concentrated towards goods trade.

In the fiscal year (FY) 2020-21, Bangladesh exported goods worth $3.9 billion and imported goods worth $24.5 billion. On the other hand, at the same time, the services export was $1.8 billion and import was worth $2.6 billion.


Bangladesh enjoys preferential market access to many of the RCEP countries, either through preferential trade agreement (PTA) or through GSP facilities.

After graduating from the least-developed country (LDC) status in 2026, the duty-free access will no longer be available except for reciprocal general preference under the Asia-Pacifica Trade Agreement (APTA).

In such a situation, sustaining the consistent progress achieved by Bangladesh in bilateral export trade with some of the RCEP countries as well as availing the opportunity to some potential destinations in RCEP will be a real challenge.

The study says RCEP includes some of the major export destinations as well as major import sources of Bangladesh. Considering the bilateral-trade scenario, RCEP remains more as an important partner from the Bangladesh perspective.

Import from RCEP contributes around 43.92 per cent of the total global import of Bangladesh, 55.33 per cent of the total tax revenue and 58.56 per cent of total revenue from customs duty collected under home consumption, as of FY 2020-21.

Thus, the probable accession of Bangladesh to RCEP may, however, have a negative impact on revenue generation from customs duty.

Since some major import sources of Bangladesh like China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia are involved with RCEP, there is a threat of losing certain amount of revenue from these countries.

More than 68 per cent of total merchandise exports to RCEP are under apparel- product category. Top twenty export items to RCEP mostly consist of apparel products and these twenty products constitute 64 per cent of total export items.

The study found that the average most-favoured nation (MFN) tariff for Bangladesh has been comparatively higher than that of the RCEP members.

It says the probable increase in import along with a comparatively protective regime of Bangladesh estimated a probable high revenue loss for Bangladesh compared to that of the RCEP.

"However, as estimated trade creation would likely be higher than the trade-diversion effect for Bangladesh, it may generate additional revenue from other duties and charges, if not reduced due to a possible accession in RCEP," the study mentions.

The Trade and Tariff Commission recommends that the government may express its positive stand regarding the accession of Bangladesh to RCEP through weighing all the pros and cons.

In that case, domestic rules and regulations may require to be changed in some cases, if situation arises.

Former BTTC member Dr Mostafa Abid Khan told the FE Friday that Bangladesh needs to reform various policies which will help lower revenue losses to be created due to the signing of FTAs.

"Tariff policy and education-sector policy reforms are needed immediately," he points out and says capable human resource needs to be created.

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Jasim Uddin

03 July, 2022, 05:10 pm

Last modified: 03 July, 2022, 05:58 pm

Export earnings hit record high $52.08B in FY22

For the first time, Bangladesh's export earnings crossed $52.08 billion in 2021-22 fiscal year, thanks to a record shipment by the readymade garments sector.

This year's earnings from goods export reached $8.58 billion, which is more than the target, according to the provisional data of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) released on Sunday.

Bangladesh's export earnings have almost reached its export target amounting to $43.5 billion set for FY22 in 10 months.

AHM Ahsan, vice-chairman of EPB, told TBS, if they take $8 billion worth of services exports into account, the exports will reach $60 billion at the end of this fiscal year.

He also mentioned that the exports will continue to grow until next October.

In June, the exports clocked the $4.90 billion mark for the highest in a single month in this fiscal year, and June growth is over 37% year-on-year.

In July-June, the country apparel shipment alone accounts for more than 81% worth $43.34 billion, according to sources at the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB). 


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Trade deficit projected at $33bn by end of FY22

The new projection is higher than the central bank's initial projection in the MPS for FY22

Tribune Desk

July 3, 2022 3:51 PM

Bangladesh's trade deficit is projected to be $33 billion in the just-concluded fiscal year as export earnings and remittances continue to fall below the overall import cost.

The trade deficit is expected to increase further to $36.70 billion in the next fiscal year of FY23, said Bangladesh Bank in its monetary policy.

The new projection is higher than the central bank's initial projection in the MPS for FY22.

The central bank had projected the trade deficit to be at $26.60 billion in FY22.

But the deficit widened to $27.56 billion in the first 10 months of FY22.

The BB also projected an increase in the current account deficit to $17.73 billion from $4.5 billion a year ago.

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Export growth to slow in FY23: BB

Star Business Report

Fri Jul 1, 2022 10:15 AM Last update on: Fri Jul 1, 2022 10:15 AM

Bangladesh's export growth may witness a slowdown in the next fiscal year, said the central bank in its monetary policy unveiled yesterday. 

The projection comes as export grew 34 per cent year-on-year to $47.17 billion in the July-May period of the just-concluded fiscal year.

The export growth is likely to remain low because of weak external demand.

Owing to domestic demand, there is the possibility of higher import bills, said the BB while releasing the monetary policy that seeks to tighten the money supply to contain inflation.

Import bills soared 39 per cent in the first 11 months of FY22. 

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Jasim Uddin

03 July, 2022, 10:45 pm

Last modified: 03 July, 2022, 10:47 pm

Home textiles, agri and leather emerge with major export potentials


Home textiles, agricultural products and leather and leather goods are gradually emerging to be export potential sectors, say industry leaders.  

While these sectors performed well according to the export outlook of concluded FY22, experts deem their growth curves still below the achievable potential partly due to freight cost hike which hindered export.

For leather and leather goods export compliance turns out to be a major barrier for growth.

Jute and jute goods saw about 3% negative growth due to price hike of raw materials in the previous fiscal year.

According to the provisional data of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), in July-June, the country's diversified export basket contributed about 19% to the total export earnings of $52.08 billion, while apparel shipment alone accounts for more than 81%, which once went up to 84%.

EPB data shows, the home textile sector saw a 43.28% growth to $1.62 billion year-on-year while leather and leather goods earned $1.24 billion with 32.23% growth in the last fiscal.

Agricultural products recorded $1.16 billion with 13.04% growth, while the earnings were $1.02billion in FY21.

Kamruzzaman Kamal, director marketing of the PRAN-RFL group told The Business Standard, that the sectors have potential to grow more but the freight cost hike and vessel crisis during the pandemic hindered their growth.

He added that some exporters failed to ship goods on time while others saw order cancellations.

PRAN-RFL group has done better than last year, he said, adding "We have diversified our export basket adding some new product lines – bakery and confectionery items."

Once golden fibre - jute and jute goods has lost its glory and saw about 3% negative growth to $1.12 billion in FY22 from $1.16billion in FY21.

Akij group Chairman Sheikh Nasir Uddin told The Business Standard that the sector lost its market share due to last year's raw materials price hike, which also led to innovation of alternative products.

"Turkey is the major market for Bangladesh, but they innovated two alternative products for Jute—recycled cotton yarn and plastic yarn," he added.

Sheikh Nasir Uddin, also chairman of Bangladesh Jute Spinners Association, said about 50% of small and medium factories have already closed down and the rest are running with up to 60% of their capacity.

Mridha Moniruzzaman Monir, vice-chairman of Bangladesh Jute Spinners Association and managing director of Golden Jute Industries Ltd, said a syndication of local jute prices was invited this fall for the sector.

Shaheen Ahmed, President of Bangladesh Tanners' Association (BTA) said the sector saw growth despite the logistic cost and imported chemical price hike.

"The sector will not flourish further without a fully efficient Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) at the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate," he added.

Leather exporter Picard Bangladesh Limited's managing director Md Saiful Islam pointed out that the growth indicates that buyers' have confidence on them.

He also observed that Bangladesh has failed to diversify the jute products as once it was one of the main export items along with raw leather and tea.

Rashed Mosharaff executive director marketing at Zaber & Zubair Fabrics Ltd (Home) said the home textile sector has experienced an organic growth of about 15% every year and last year it was about 25%.

"We are also exploring new markets and new buyers," he said, adding, "Spanish buyer Mango Home came on board with us this year. We are now exploring Brazil as a potential new market."

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TBS Report

04 July, 2022, 10:25 pm

Last modified: 04 July, 2022, 10:33 pm

No new tariff regime for Bangladesh even after LDC graduation: Australian high commissioner

He also said the Quad comprised four countries and it was not seeking new members



Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer. TBS Sketch

Bangladesh will not face a changed tariff or duty regime in Australia even after graduating to a middle income country.

In a visit to The Business Standard offices on Monday, Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer confirmed that there were no plans to change the zero-duty structure Bangladesh currently enjoys even after graduation, but said it was up to Bangladesh to remain competitive by ensuring its capacity to do so.

Terming the bilateral relationship between the two countries good, he said there was potential for it to grow even further.

"Trade between the two countries had grown 550% before Covid-19. I don't have good figures on the situation after Covid, but the rate and amount of growth is very encouraging and good," he said.

Bangladesh-Australia bilateral trade has grown six times over the past decade, reaching $1.90 billion (A$2.6 billion) last year. The RMG, agriculture, food, and education services were key drivers of this growth.

Saying Australia recognised Bangladesh's extraordinary development achievement over the past 20 years or so, he added, "We have signed Tifa [Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement] with Bangladesh to discuss issues of mutual interest on the trade and investment sides. We have an annual meeting of senior officers under Tifa, where we can discuss a whole range of issues which will hopefully end with increased trade and increased investment, in both directions."

Bangladesh and Australia signed the Tifa agreement, the first of its kind between the two countries, in September 2021, with the framework expected to serve as a platform for institutional economic interaction and open new opportunities for trade and investment between the two countries.

"We had the first senior official meeting where we discussed a range of issues. The variety of people on the table reflected the range of topics discussed. A 39 item action list was made for future exploration and it covered mutually beneficial investments, technical transfers, [how to] diversify supply chain, investments and exports," Bruer said.

On the areas of investment and trade growth, he said Bangladesh had a lot of potential in ICT, energy and garments.

The high commissioner said Bangladeshi garments trade imported raw materials from Australia, which is a major cotton and wool exporter.

"So there is certainly potential for growth there. There is also the prospect of exporting finished wool back to Australia, so it is another good investment opportunity," he said.

"I'd like to see greater investment from Australian businesses here because it provides a much stronger kind of basis for stronger trade and business relationships. We also take further advantage of the people-to-people links. There are 85,000 Australians with Bangladeshi connections who are making great contributions to both the economy and our multicultural society. In short, there is potential to do a lot more and I'd love to see that."

Bruer also said Australia was now the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter in the world and could help Bangladesh's growing energy needs.

"We have been talking to companies here and in Australia about that. We'd love to see a long term contract."

Highlighting the "impressive" launch of the Padma Bridge, he said Bangladesh has a large requirement for infrastructure and that was also an investment opportunity for Australian businesses.

The Australian high commissioner also touched upon the prickly issue of Quad, a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.

"The Quad is four countries; it's not five or six and we are not seeking new members. We are trying to work in ways that are constructive and helpful to the region by offering solutions and ideas to environmental, health and different issues."

In May last year, Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming said the Quad was a military alliance aimed against China's resurgence and its relationship with neighbouring countries. He said Bangladesh should not join Quad as it would "substantially damage" Dhaka-Beijing relations.

This prompted Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen to say the remark from the Chinese ambassador was unfortunate, but maintained that Bangladesh had not received any offer to join the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad). 

Asked about the threat from China, Bruer said he would not use that term.

"Australia wants to see a prosperous, stable, sovereign and inclusive region. Australia sees the world through the Indo-Pacific prism, obviously everything that comes over and under that region affects our own prosperity and our own stability. So I want to see that region become and remain stable, prosperous and sovereign. We want to give opportunities to countries to exercise this sovereignty," he said.

On the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he said the Australian position was very clear.

"We condemn what we regard as an unprovoked, unjustified and illegal invasion and call for Russia to withdraw. That's what we want to see."

Asked if the fate of Ukraine could determine the fate of Taiwan, Bruer did not reply, but reiterated the call for Russia to cease and withdraw.  

The Business Standard Editor Inam Ahmed, Executive Editor Sharier Khan, Deputy Executive Editor Shakhawat Liton, Feature Editor Mubin S Khan and Chief Report Morshed Noman were present at the occasion.

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04 July, 2022, 09:30 pm

Last modified: 04 July, 2022, 09:36 pm

Momen for early PTA signing with Indonesia


Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen today put emphasis on concluding the Bilateral Preferential Trade Agreement with Indonesia which is under negotiations.
He stressed on further expanding and accelerating the scope of trade and investment tapping into the unexplored potentials by the business communities of the two countries.
The foreign minister made the remarks while newly appointed Indonesian ambassador to Bangladesh Heru Hartanto Subolo called on him at foreign ministry here, a press release said here.
During the meeting, Dr Momen specifically emphasized on having a better balance of bilateral trade by allowing more Bangladeshi products, including RMG, pharmaceuticals, leather goods into the Indonesian market.
He suggested more frequent interactions among the business communities of the two countries.
Foreign Minister Dr. Momen urged Indonesia and the ASEAN for playing a more proactive role to facilitate an early repatriation of the displaced Rohingya people currently sheltered in Bangladesh on humanitarian grounds.
He reiterated that the problem was created by Myanmar and it has to be solved by Myanmar as well, and the only possible solution in this regard is the repatriation of the displaced people to their homeland, the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
Dr Momen also sought Indonesia's support in favour of Bangladesh's candidacy as a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of ASEAN.
Echoing the views of the Foreign Minister, the Indonesian Ambassador also emphasized on further strengthening economic relations between the two countries through various means including exchange of trade delegations, participating in trade expo.
Dr Momen recalled with gratitude the support of Indonesia for early recognition of independent Bangladesh in 1972.
He expressed happiness on the celebration of Golden Jubilee of Diplomatic ties with due festivity both in Bangladesh and Indonesia.

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Bangladesh-Bhutan PTA gives duty-free market access to more products


Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Bhutanese counterpart Dr Lotay Tshering in Dhaka on April 13, 2019. Photo:PIB

The preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) between Bangladesh and Bhutan that will give duty-free market access to more products from both the countries came into effect on 1 July.

The agreement will provide duty-free access to 10 products from Bangladesh in addition to the already 90 existing products, Kuensel reports.

Meanwhile, 16 more Bhutanese products would enjoy duty-free export to Bangladesh along with the existing 18 products.

Goods that get duty-free to Bangladesh include milk, natural honey, wheat or meslin flour, homogenised preparations of jams, fruit jellies, marmalades, food preparations of soyabeans, mineral water, wheat bran, quartzite, cement clinker, portland cement, soap, ferrosilicon, bars and rods of iron or non-alloy steel, wooden particle boards, and wooden furniture.

Meanwhile, goods from Bangladesh that Bhutan would give duty-free access include pineapple juice, guava juice, orange juice, green tea, waters including mineral and aerated, particle board, plywood, men or boy jackets and blazers, men or boy trousers and shorts, and baby garments and clothing.

According to the press release of the trade department under the economic affairs ministry, the PTA aims to promote and expand bilateral trade between the two countries by implementing appropriate measures including reducing or eliminating barriers affecting trade.

"The department is optimistic that the bilateral trade instrument would help further expand and diversify Bhutanese exports," the press release stated.

The department also requested the private sector to familiarise the favourable market opportunities provided by the PTA.

The Third Parliament of Bhutan during its sixth session in 2021 has ratified the PTA between Bhutan and Bangladesh.

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GSP plus, labour rights to get focus at meeting with EU trade delegation

 FE ONLINE REPORT | Published:  July 05, 2022 20:47:50


GSP Plus and labour rights will get priority in the meeting between Bangladesh and the trade delegation from the EU Parliament, which will visit Dhaka from July 17 to 20.

The trade delegation, comprising five parliamentarians of the EU, will visit some private sector factories and will assess the economic front of the country, officials of the foreign ministry said.

Commenting on the issue, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam said that there will be a wide-ranging discussion with the EU delegation.

Bangladesh draws worldwide attention for keeping up its growth momentum despite the global recession triggered by the pandemic and war, Mr Shahriar pointed out.

Responding to a question, he said that the discussion on the GSP plus facility has already started and many countries pledged to extend it up to 2029 from 2026.

Already Australia informed us that they are extending it and we seek such extension not only from the EU but also from other countries like Japan, and Canada.

The EU is reviewing its entire GSP regime and the draft of the review is tabled in the EU parliament, he said adding that Bangladesh needs to realign its position during GSP plus negotiations with the EU.

Issues related to labour rights are critical in this regard, he mentioned referring to the EU and US demand for the introduction of uniform labour rules both inside and outside the EPZ.

When this issue was raised in Washington during the bilateral economic consultation, we told them that the foreign investors came into the EPZs under a fixed set of rules.

“If we change that drastically that will be an injustice to them so we sought time saying that we would try to implement the uniformity within two or three years,” the state minister said.

The state minister said the EU is providing them EBA facilities to many other countries including Bangladesh.

“But no other country can use the facility like Bangladesh, which immensely reaps benefit through using this facility. The EU delegation can see how we do that and tell our success story to other countries”, Mr Shahriar said.

Non disclosure of Tariq Rahaman’s status by UK painful

The state minister said that the non-disclosure of the citizenship status of BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahaman by the UK government is ‘painful’.

Responding to a question, he said Bangladesh several times requested the UK government to know about the citizenship status of Mr Rahman, the eldest son of former prime minister and BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia.

“But they did not respond to the request” the state minister informed adding that it is frustrating not to get the information from a country with which Bangladesh has a deep-rooted friendship.

“We are sure that his Bangladeshi passport is revoked and we have shown the proof of that” he added.

Tariq, who was sent to London by the military-backed caretaker regime in 2008, was convicted by Bangladeshi courts in several cases after the assumption of power by the ruling Awami League.

The UK officials time and again mentioned that they cannot sent back Tariq to Bangladesh as it is under the jurisdiction of the UK court.

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Abul Kashem

05 July, 2022, 10:55 pm

Last modified: 05 July, 2022, 11:01 pm

China-led trade bloc holds promise, with some caveats



Imagine the rewards of unfettered access to 2.5 billion people, 15 countries and a $12.7 trillion market. That is what the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest economic bloc in the world, has to offer.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, at least at this point in time.

While in a survey, the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) recommended Bangladesh join the bloc, its wording regarding the accession had some warnings embedded.

The BTTC said, "The government may express its positive stand regarding the accession of Bangladesh to RCEP considering all the issues, concerns and keeping in view the issue-wise stakeholder consultation and recognising that domestic rule and regulations may require to be changed in some cases, if situation arises."

The concerns and changes in domestic rules are indeed issues that require further scrutiny.

What's also important is the lion's share of any export growth would be for the apparel sector with others losing out.

Termed a paper tiger by the Wall Street Journal, the mammoth partnership is much more than that. Just joining the bloc would yield Bangladesh a 17.37% export growth, amounting to just shy of over $5 billion, recent findings by the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) showed.

On 15 November 2020, the 15 countries – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand; 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean): Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines – inked the world's largest free trade agreement that covers 2.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $26.2 trillion.

But, while Bangladesh would enjoy duty-free access to other RCEP countries, those countries would also get the same advantage in Bangladesh.

Accession to the RCEP would result in a significant increase in Bangladesh's global imports, which would grow by 14.46%.

This liberalisation of the trade regime would have an impact on many domestic industries which would no longer receive the current level of protections.

Textiles, leather products, transport equipment, metal products, paper, light, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing could all see some level of replacement by imported products.

Joining the RCEP would thus force Bangladesh to drastically diversify its export basket, a call that has been made repeatedly over the years.

Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, conceded that Bangladesh would have to join the RCEP at some point, but preparedness to do so was crucial in its own interest.

"We have to achieve the standards mentioned in the RCEP rules and if we do not increase the productivity skills of the private sector, joining this bloc will hurt other sectors, except apparel," he said.

"We have to prepare ourselves. In which case, the sectors affected need to be strengthened in advance. While reducing business costs through ease of doing business, those must also be compensated at the same time," he added.

"Bangladesh's connectivity must include transport connectivity and foreign direct investment (FDI). RCEP member countries will invest in Bangladesh due to cheap labour and export the products at zero tariffs. Bangladesh has to export those products which the countries import and FDI will be an issue here."

In this regard, the BTTC found that the FDI data indicated inward FDI had reduced from RCEP countries while outward FDI had grown.

Much more to do

The BTTC recommendation to join the RCEP comes in light of Bangladesh preparing to graduate to a middle-income country, which would mean it would lose a number of trade preferences.

Of the 15 countries in the RCEP, Bangladesh enjoys duty-free export to Australia, Japan, New Zealand, China, South Korea and Thailand, which will be gone once it graduates from the LDC status in 2026.

Joining the RCEP would mean retaining the export facilities in these markets, while there will also be benefits of increased manpower exports and in turn remittance growth.

The heavy focus on benefits for the RMG sector - the key talking point of the RCEP - stems from the fact that the top 20 export items to RCEP are RMG products and these constitute 64% of the total exports.

Joining the RCEP would also boost GDP by a marginal 0.23%.

But the BTTC shows that this will be driven solely by the clothing sector and at the cost of negative impact on most of the other industries.

The RMG sector could grow by more than $5.04 billion and exports of few other sectors like textile, leather products, meat and livestock, beverages and tobacco would also have some positive impact, but again this won't be the case for most others.

"From an industrial perspective, only the apparel sector is likely to gain. Apart from the apparel sector, the overall fall of industrial output would decrease by 0.46%," the BTTC said in its report.

Asif Muztaba Hassan, an analyst at a Boston-based organisation, said gains could be made once the export basket is diversified.

"This deal will kind of push us towards diversification. It will help us understand what the second sector is that we need to focus on. For instance, if after entering the RCEP our policymakers see the scarcity of microchips, it can inform them to pivot domestic production towards that," he said.

Policy reform now crucial

The rise in exports will also not offset the rise in imports when Bangladesh joins the RCEP. Both would go up, but most of the domestic industries would adversely be affected by increased imports and the global trade deficit would increase by 2.69%.

Bangladesh is also more import dependent on RCEP, with 45% of its imports coming from that region as opposed to only 10% of exports.

A reciprocal 100% linear tariff cut both by Bangladesh and RCEP may likely result in an increase in imports for both the parties, though import increases for Bangladesh would be much higher.

As a result, the estimated revenue loss is likely to be higher for Bangladesh, US$2.5 billion compared to around US$541 million for RCEP.

Dr Mostafa Abid Khan, who was part of the feasibility study conducted by the BTTC, said Bangladesh must reform some policies before joining the RCEP.

"For example, we have no policy on the retail market. Any country can become influential in the retail market of Bangladesh with a few quality products."

"There will be benefits…but the private sector needs to be strengthened, including with policy reforms. The protective environment the private sector enjoys will not exist once we join," he added.

He said Bangladesh's concerns must be considered at the negotiation table.

The expectation, however, is that elimination of tariffs would result in decreased prices of imported raw materials which would make certain sectors more competitive in the global market. The synergy among so many nations, alongside possible transfer of skills and technologies, could also result in trade creation.

Apart from a trade deficit, loss of revenue will also come in loss in duties.

RCEP countries are responsible for around 43.92% of the total global import of Bangladesh, 55.33% of the total tax revenue and 58.56% of total customs duty revenue collected as of FY 2020-21.

Among the fifteen parties to RCEP, China remains the single largest contributor in terms of import and revenue generation, around 45% and 44% respectively of the total of RCEP.

Losing out such a large chunk of government revenue also needs to be planned for. If revenue is lost and domestic players aren't competitive, then the twin threat could undo a lot of good work.

Accession to the RCEP, however, could help secure Bangladesh's manpower exports to the region, from where around 11-13% Bangladesh's remittance is generated.

Demand for skilled and unskilled labour in the apparel sector would also increase by  around 18%, but demand for workers in other sectors could fall.

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Manzur Ahmed, Adviser, FBCCI

07 July, 2022, 10:45 pm

Last modified: 07 July, 2022, 10:50 pm

It’s a doctor’s prescription for Bangladesh’s trade facilitation



Manzur Ahmed. TBS Sketch

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has 194 member countries. And, Bangladesh has trade relations with each of them more or less. 

Bangladesh is scheduled for graduating from the status of a least developed country (LDC) to that of developing one in 2026. Even after becoming a developing country, Bangladesh may continue to enjoy the international support measures associated with LDC status for a three-year grace period. But if we do not have any bilateral agreement with any country within the period, the current trade facility will be abolished. 

It is not possible to do preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and free trade agreements (FTAs) with all WTO members within the time period but we have the opportunity to cover almost the entire world by signing only 10 agreements, including three bilateral FTAs and seven others with regional blocks.

We observe that the government is negotiating with many countries on different agreements, but those may not bring much benefits considering their costs. 

The government has to establish separate desks to deal with different countries separately. 

The PTA signed with Bhutan is the first such bilateral preferential trade agreement Bangladesh has signed since its independence in 1971.  But, the business volume is not significant for Bangladesh. 

As the government is also trying to sign such trade deals with Indonesia and India, those will not yield any larger benefits for the country. 

Bangladesh is going to sign a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with India to maintain a preferential market access after its graduation to a developing nation.

I think we do not need to sign such a deal with the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) facility already in place. 

No country has benefited from signing a new deal with India in recent memory. Safta is the best option for Bangladesh to protect trade facilities in the Indian market. 

We have only four years to do trade deals with the world to ensure a smooth LDC graduation, the current pace of doing business deals may push us to lose preferential market access after the graduation. 

For example, we can join the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the largest economic bloc in the world, which will ensure market access in 15 countries.

Similarly, inking a deal with Mercosur will cover the South American trade bloc. 

Besides joining seven regional blocs, we can do FTAs with the USA, Canada and UK. All these will cover almost the entire global market. 

We have developed these proposals for the government after analysing the merits and demerits of FTAs with these blocs and countries. It is a doctor's prescription for Bangladesh' trade facilitation, the government may accept it. 

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সয়াবিন, গরুর মাংস ও সার রপ্তানিতে আগ্রহ আর্জেন্টিনার

নিজস্ব প্রতিবেদক

১২ জুলাই ২০২২, ০৯:০৫ পিএম

বাংলাদেশে সয়াবিন, গরুর মাংস ও সার রপ্তানি করতে আগ্রহ প্রকাশ করেছে আর্জেন্টিনা। অন্যদিকে কৃষি ক্ষেত্রে বাংলাদেশ-আর্জেন্টিনার মধ্যে সহযোগিতার ওপর জোর দিয়েছে ঢাকা। 

মঙ্গলবার (১২ জুলাই) পররাষ্ট্র মন্ত্রণালয়ে পররাষ্ট্র প্রতিমন্ত্রী মো. শাহরিয়ার আলমের সঙ্গে সাক্ষাৎ করেন ঢাকা সফররত আর্জেন্টিনার পররাষ্ট্র, আন্তর্জাতিক বাণিজ্য ও উপাসনা মন্ত্রণালয়ের পররাষ্ট্র নীতি বিষয়ক আন্ডার সেক্রেটারি ক্লাউদিও হাভিয়ের রসেনওয়াইগ। এ সময় উভয়পক্ষ যার যার আগ্রহের কথা ব্যক্ত করেন। 

বৈঠকে আর্জেন্টিনার আন্ডার সেক্রেটারি দুই দেশের মধ্যে কূটনৈতিক সম্পর্কের ৫০ বছর পূর্তি উপলক্ষে আর্জেন্টিনার পররাষ্ট্রমন্ত্রীর শুভেচ্ছা বার্তা হস্তান্তর করেন। প্রতিমন্ত্রী ১৯৭১ সালে বাংলাদেশের মুক্তিযুদ্ধের সময় আর্জেন্টিনার বিখ্যাত কবি ভিক্টোরিয়া ওকাম্পোর নেতৃত্বে দেশটিতে আন্দোলনের কথা স্মরণ করেন। শাহরিয়ার আলম বলেন, কবি ওকাম্পো যুদ্ধের নিন্দা ও বাঙালিদের ন্যায়সঙ্গত সমর্থনে জনমত গঠনে গুরুত্বপূর্ণ ভূমিকা রেখেছিলেন। 

বৈঠকে তারা দুই দেশের মধ্যে ব্যবসায়িক ও বাণিজ্যিক সম্পর্ক আরও জোরদার করার ওপর গুরত্বারোপ করেন। উভয় পক্ষই স্বীকার করেছে যে, সার ও জ্বালানি সরবরাহে বর্তমান বিশ্বব্যাপী সংকট কৃষি উৎপাদনকে আরও ব্যাহত করতে পারে।

একই দিনে আর্জেন্টিনার আন্ডার সেক্রেটারি চার সদস্যের প্রতিনিধি দল নিয়ে পররাষ্ট্র-সচিব মাসুদ বিন মোমেনের সঙ্গেও বৈঠক করেন। উভয়পক্ষ পারস্পরিক স্বার্থ সংশ্লিষ্ট বিষয় নিয়ে আলোচনা করেন। পররাষ্ট্র সচিব দুই দেশের মধ্যে দ্বিপাক্ষিক পরামর্শ প্রতিষ্ঠা সংক্রান্ত সমঝোতা স্মারক স্বাক্ষর নিয়ে সন্তোষ প্রকাশ করেন।

আর্জেন্টিনার আন্ডার সেক্রেটারি জানান, দেশটি ঢাকায় কূটনৈতিক মিশন খোলার বিষয়ে সক্রিয়ভাবে বিবেচনা করছে। উভয়পক্ষ শিগগিরই বাংলাদেশ ও আর্জেন্টিনার পররাষ্ট্রমন্ত্রীদের মধ্যে একটি ভার্চুয়াল বৈঠকের আয়োজন করতে সম্মত হয়। 

উভয় পক্ষই আশাবাদ ব্যক্ত করে যে, এ সফর দুই দেশের মধ্যে নতুন করে সম্পর্ক গড়ে তোলার পথ প্রশস্ত করবে।

প্রতিনিধি দলটি বাণিজ্য মন্ত্রণালয়ের সিনিয়র সচিব তপন কান্তি ঘোষ এবং কৃষি মন্ত্রণালয়ের অতিরিক্ত সচিব রুহুল আমিন তালুকদারের সঙ্গেও স্ব স্ব মন্ত্রণালয়ে সাক্ষাৎ করেন। 


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Bangladesh should go for PTA with Latin American trade bloc

Suggested an Argentine diplomat

Star Business Report

Tue Jul 12, 2022 03:54 PM Last update on: Tue Jul 12, 2022 04:01 PM


An Argentine delegation held a meeting with FBCCI President Md Jashim Uddin in Dhaka on Monday. Photo: Collected

Bangladesh should go for signing a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with the MERCOSUR, a trade bloc of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, since negotiations over a free trade agreement might take a long time, said a diplomat from Argentina.

PTA takes a much shorter period, said Hugo Gobbi, ambassador of the Argentine Republic to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, according to a press release of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) today.

His comments came during a meeting between Md Jashim Uddin, president of the FBCCI, and Claudio Rozencwaig, undersecretary of foreign policy of the ministry of foreign affairs and international trade of Argentina, in Dhaka.

Rozencwaig, who was leading an Argentine delegation, also expressed interest in boosting bilateral relations on all fronts.

At the meeting, Jashim sought the support of Argentina to expedite the process of signing an FTA between Bangladesh and the MERCOSUR to harness the trade potential between the two sides.

The region is equipped with significant dynamic markets and it can source quality products from Bangladesh, including processed food, pharmaceuticals, plastic, ceramic and ready-made garment at competitive prices, the FBCCI president said.

Bangladesh is working to sign pacts with trading partners since the country is set to lose duty-free market access once it graduates from the grouping of the least-developed countries in 2026. It would have to ink trade deals with countries and regional blocs to keep commerce up and running.

In its first, Bangladesh struck a PTA with Bhutan on December 2020.

Franco Agustín Senilliani Melchior, head of the economic and trade section of the Argentine embassy in India, said textiles are one of the major import items of Argentina which the country sources from other Asian countries.

Bangladesh should also consider the country as a potential market for textile and plastic items, Melchior said in the press release.

Mariano Beheran, an agricultural attaché of the embassy, said Argentina can provide agriculture technology and know-how support, including seed technology to increase Bangladesh's capability in the sector.

He also suggested that Bangladesh import cotton, milk powder and garlic from Argentina.

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Post-LDC era

South Korea unlikely to provide DFQF facility for Bangladeshi goods

 REZAUL KARIM | Published:  July 13, 2022 08:44:45 | Updated:  July 13, 2022 17:12:38

South Korea is unlikely to provide duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access to products from Bangladesh unilaterally after its graduation from the least developed country (LDC) status in 2026.

The East Asian country has already informed the Bangladesh embassy in Seoul informally that it is reluctant to give DFQF access one-sidedly in favour of Bangladeshi goods, according to a letter of the embassy.

The Korean republic is also likely to come under pressure from the countries who signed free trade/preferential trade agreements with the developed country if the facility is given independently to Bangladesh even after its graduation from the LDC club, the letter hinted.

To overcome possible export shocks from the developed market, the embassy has suggested that the government should fix its position and devise next course of action to this effect through conducting a feasibility study with the stakeholders.

On March 31, 2021, the Bangladesh mission requested the Korean trade, industries and energy ministry to form a joint feasibility study team on implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), but the ministry has not informed the mission as yet regarding the issue.

It emphasised taking a decision as early as possible on FTA/PTA for ensuring trade preference in the market after the LDC graduation in 2026 as any type of trade deal involves a long-term process.

Bangladesh embassy anticipates an adverse impact on Bangladeshi exports to the Korean market as most of the Asian countries already have regional and bilateral agreements with South Korea.

Besides, Bangladeshi products will enter the Korean market as expensive products if it is not given DFQF access by the East Asian country after the LDC graduation.

If the DFQF facility is not continued, it will discourage the Koreans from investing in Bangladesh, it said.

The Bangladesh mission has recommended requesting the Korean authorities to continue DFQF facility for Bangladeshi products until completion of any FTA or PTA with the country. Korea has expanded its DFQF facility for LDCs (least developed countries).

Currently, it provides duty-free market access to Bangladesh in 95 per cent of tariff lines.

Bangladesh and South Korea are the members of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA). Both countries have been maintaining good bilateral trade ties for a long time.

Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Korea has already crossed US$ 2.0 billion.

Bangladesh's exports to South Korea totalled US$398.66 million in the fiscal year 2020-21, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).

Realising the urgency, the government is trying to secure duty-free market access to a good number of countries after the LDC graduation as many developed countries will not continue duty-free facility in the post-LDC era, says a commerce ministry official.

"Many countries want to build business relations with us. But we cannot tap the potential for a lack of proactive drive," he adds.

Currently, Bangladesh has achieved DFQF market access from the developed and advanced developing countries as a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is known as generalised system of preference (GSP) facility.

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TBS Report

26 July, 2022, 10:00 pm

Last modified: 27 July, 2022, 01:52 pm

Duty slashed for imports from OIC, D-8 countries

The duty reductions will have insignificant impact on revenue collection, but the country’s export will be benefited greatly


The authorities have reduced duty to 10% for imports from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation (D-8) countries under two separate trade agreements.      

Officials said the duty reductions will have an insignificant impact on revenue collection, but the country's export will benefit substantially from it.

A statutory regulatory order by the Finance Ministry on 20 July mentioned a duty cut for import of 478 types of products from the OIC countries.

But such imports have already been enjoying the reduced rate, as the new notification will be applicable for only 47 items with customs duty ranging from 15%-25%.       

On 20 July, another separate statutory regulatory order was issued reducing import duty of 356 products from the D-8 countries. However, no new products will be subject to tariff reduction as these products already have lower import duty.

According to customs sources, Bangladesh cut the import duty of 478 products to 10% according to the 2003 OIC tariff base line under the Trade Preferential System among the Member States.     

At that time, almost all of those products had duties above 10%. However, those rates fell over the years, as import duty of only 47 products remained 15%-25%.

"We will have to exempt around Tk6.5 lakh in duty for import from the OIC countries as per FY2021-22 estimate. This is insignificant compared to the overall benefits the country will get in export," a top customs officer at the revenue board told The Business Standard.

According to sources, import duty has already been reduced under the 2013 Preferential Trade Agreement Among D-8 Member States. Currently, the customs duty on the products is 10% or less.

As a result, even if the duty is reduced on paper, there will be no need for further duty adjustment, and there will be no negative impact on the revenue.

Apart from Bangladesh, other countries belonging to D-8 are Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey.

According to customs sources, Egypt and Pakistan have not implemented the import tariff yet.

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Offsetting post-LDC preferential trade losses

BD for securing SAFTA benefits in new pact

CEPA negotiations with India soon

 SYFUL ISLAM and REZAUL KARIM |  August 06, 2022 00:00:00

Bangladesh will push for securing the benefits it enjoys under the SAFTA deal when negotiations on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) start with India soon, officials say.

As a least developed country (LDC) all but 25 tobacco and alcohol products of Bangladesh are entitled to duty-and quota-free market access to India under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.

Bangladesh will lose the duty-free and quota-free market-access facility to India after 2026 when it graduates to a developing country.

A recent meeting at the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) decided to open CEPA negotiations with India soon with a view to retaining in the new pact the facilities it enjoys under the SAFTA deal.

The meeting was told that India is a major trade partner of Bangladesh from where essential commodities, industrial raw materials and equipment are imported.

Export to the neighbouring giant is also increasing gradually, according to the meeting's opinion.

The two next-door neighbours first discussed the possibility of striking CEPA in 2018 at a commerce secretary-level meeting for a boost in bilateral trade and overall cooperation.

The same year, the trade ministers of the two countries agreed to conduct a joint feasibility study on the prospects of CEPA.

The Centre for Regional Trade of India and Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) later jointly conducted the feasibility study and submitted its report to the commerce ministry.

Sources say the recently held meeting, chaired by commerce secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh, asked the BFTI and the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission to prepare a joint report identifying the possible benefits and risks of getting into CEPA pact with India.

Also, conducting a separate study on trade in goods, trade in services, and investment was underscored to decide appropriate strategy for negotiating CEPA.

The meeting suggested the formation of an expert team to carry out the negotiations, taking in-house preparation for dispute settlement for investment negotiations, steps for ensuring mutual recognition of standards for deciding product quality, and providing priority to the SAARC agreement on trade in services (SATIS) in case of negotiating trade in services.

Also, the meeting suggested steps for continuation of trade facilities Bangladesh attained in north-eastern regions of India, keeping watch so that Indian investment policy cannot be barrier in case of investment here, and intensifying trade-facilitation activities.

Steps about non-tariff barriers in CEPA, addressing the issues like easy and low-cost import of essential commodities, industrial raw materials, and machinery were recommended.

Contacted, a senior commerce ministry official told the FE the negotiating team has to be formed with qualified officials who have enough knowledge on bilateral and multilateral deals and laws.

"The purview of CEPA is very wide, much larger than a free- trade-area deal, thus has to be handled with adequate skill, since Bangladesh is for the first time negotiating such agreement," he says.

Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), suggests that the decision to undertake separate studies on trade in goods and services, and investment to identify the possible strategies based on the impacts and implications of CEPA should get immediate priority.

"Since India earlier negotiated a number of trade and investment deals and a number of those are currently in the process of negotiation, it is important to review the documents related to those negotiations to understand its priorities, offensive and defensive interests, institutions working with negotiations, and institutional measures undertaken to implement such agreements," he says.

Mr Moazzem suggests forming a highly competent technical team within the ministry of commerce where experts from different sectors need to be involved on a long-term basis.

"Operation of the technical team should be supported from the government budget without the support from development partners and international organisations."

He feels that it is important to involve stakeholders in different phases of the discussion since the private sector will be the direct and most important users/parties of such agreement. "Such an important political and economic negotiation should not happen outside the close observation of the political process," he says.

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BD's duty-free facility for Bhutan comes into effect

PTA signed in December 2020

 DOULOT AKTER MALA |  August 09, 2022 00:00:00

Bangladesh has finally made the duty-free market-access facility under preferential trade agreement (PTA) effective for Bhutan through a much-awaited official gazette.

The customs authority has offered tax waiver on import of 16 Bhutanese products by issuing a statutory regulatory order (SRO).

The SRO, signed by Internal Resources Division (IRD) Senior Secretary Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, came into effect on August 4.

With the SRO issuance, the duty-free market access under PTA officially came into effect on both ends of Bangladesh and Bhutan. The countries signed the PTA on December 6, 2020 in a bid to reduce or waive import tariff and para-tariff.

On July 1, 2022, Bhutan made the duty-free market access facility effective for around 100 Bangladeshi products under the PTA.

A senior customs official said from now on both the countries would be able to avail the benefits under the first-ever bilateral trade agreement of Bangladesh.

He noted that the duty-free list of products went through some procedural steps, including ratification by the authorities concerned of both the states.

The official, however, said the tax benefit had been offered on the basis of trade neutral rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Under the trade neutral rules, the member countries have to impose the same rates on imported products and domestically produced goods.

In case of readjustment of supplementary duty (SD) on local products in future, the SD rates in the list would be adjusted upward or downward, he added.

In the SRO, the customs authority exempted all types of import duty, SD, regulatory duty (if applicable) on the imported products - produced or processed in Bhutan.

The exemption was given on condition of compliance with the Rules for Determination of Origin of Goods for Bhutan-Bangladesh PTA (BB-PTA).

The products include: milk, wheat or meslin flour, homogenised preparations of jams, fruit jellies, marmalades, food preparation of soybean, wheat bran, quartzite, cement clinkers, portland cement, soap, particle board of wood, ferro-silicon, bars and rods of iron or non-alloy steel, wooden furniture of a kind used in offices, and wooden furniture of a kind used in bedroom.

However, import of mineral water and aerated water would enjoy 75 per cent waiver on SD - due to having the same rate of taxes on the items at local stage.

Bhutan offered duty-free benefit on import of Bangladeshi products, including baby clothes and clothing accessories, men's trousers and shorts, jackets and blazers, jute and jute goods, leather and leather goods, dry-cell battery, fan, watch, potato, condensed milk, cement, toothbrush, plywood, particle board, mineral and carbonated water, green tea, orange juice, pineapple juice, and guava juice.

In the fiscal year (FY) 2018-19, bilateral trade volume between the countries was US$49.65 million.

Bhutan exported goods worth $81.27 million to Bangladesh in 2019, while Bangladesh exported goods worth $8.33 million to Bhutan.

According to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, Bangladesh earned $9.5 million in FY 2021-22 by exporting products to Bhutan.

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TBS Report

09 August, 2022, 08:05 pm

Last modified: 09 August, 2022, 08:30 pm

Bangladesh-Iraq trade grows four-fold


Total trade volume between Iraq and Bangladesh has almost quadrupled in the past two years. 

This information was released on Tuesday (9 August) at a seminar titled "Bangladesh - A Hub for Trade and Investment" in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, organised by the Bangladesh Embassy in Iraq.

About 80% of the dates in the Bangladeshi market come from Iraq, which has increased to about $26 million in the past year from $7 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year. 

Besides, the import of bitumen and petrochemicals in large quantities from Iraq started this year. On the other hand, tobacco, electronics and food items have started to be exported from Bangladesh for the first time this year, along with medicines and ready-made garments.

The first secretary of the embassy, Abu Saleh Mohammad Imran, presented the main article in the seminar chaired by the Ambassador of Bangladesh to Iraq, Md Fazlul Bari.

During the open discussion phase of the seminar, the ambassador answered various questions about investment and import-export in Bangladesh.

The chief guest of the programme was the provincial governor of Erbil, Umed Khoshner.

Erbil Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Dara Jalil Khair and other local business leaders addressed the seminar. 

They said that the seminar helped them to get a clear understanding of Bangladesh, its investment environment and export products. 

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09 August, 2022, 10:05 pm

Last modified: 09 August, 2022, 10:11 pm

Bangladesh's export to grow with 98% duty-free market access: China



The duty-free treatment of 98% tariff lines goods will help Bangladesh to further increase its export to China, says the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka on Tuesday. 

State Councillor and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi during his recent visit to Bangladesh, announced that the duty-free treatment of 98% tariff lines goods originating from Bangladesh exported to China will take into effect on 1 September.

This will further help to boost Bangladesh's export to China, said the embassy.

Several kinds of basic leather products added into the 98% zero-tariff lines are "good news" to Bangladeshi exporters in the leather industry, which is a industry with huge potential in Bangladesh, said the Chinese side. 

Businessmen in the leather industry have already been focusing on the opportunity provided by the 98% duty-free treatment, according to the Chinese embassy.

Programmes are undergoing and helping Chinese manufacturing enterprises related to leather products forming business relations with Bangladesh's leather exporters, it said.

Bangladesh has many high-quality agricultural, livestock and fishery products. 

For example, China said, the national fish of Bangladesh, the hilsa, is among both the 97% and the 98% zero tariff lines, and has already acquired the inspection and quarantine access to the Chinese market. 

Bangladesh's mango, jackfruit, guava, honey, and beef are all listed as duty free products in both the 97% and the 98% tariff lines. 

Varied by different categories of tariff lines, compared with duty-free treatment of 97% tariff lines, there are more than several hundreds of tariff lines added to the 98% duty-free treatment tariff lines, such as some agricultural products, crude oil of ground nut, crude cotton-seed oil, liquid crystal display panel, paper product, saloon cars and chemicals, said the embassy. 

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Bangladesh Keen to Accelerate CEPA Talks with India as it Confronts Economic Headwinds

 July 27, 2022Posted byIndia BriefingWritten byMelissa Cyrill

The Bangladesh government is keen to sign a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India to expand bilateral trade and investment.

The CEPA will be among trade agreements Bangladesh is prioritizing with its major trade partners, as it will lose duty benefits once the country graduates to developing nation status in 2026.

Besides India, Bangladesh was also reportedly seeking to close trade deals with Indonesia and Sri Lanka within a year.

While the timeline indicates political expediency on Bangladesh’s part, all stakeholder regions are confronting major economic headwinds and financial pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war, with Sri Lanka among the worst affected.

Why the urgency to sign trade deals, secure tariff concessions

On July 25, Bangladesh media reported that senior government officials from the country’s foreign, labor, commerce, home affairs ministries held a meeting to discuss starting CEPA negotiations with India. The CEPA framework will not be limited to free trade issues like tariff reductions and market access but also cover foreign investment facilitation and employment.

The Bangladesh government also reportedly signed a law on signing free trade agreements (FTA), preferential trade agreements (PTA), and CEPA with potential and leading trade partners. This is because, in November 2021, the United Nations approved that Bangladesh would graduate from its Least Developed Country (LDC) status in five years. The LDC status carries along with it many trade benefits.

Eligibility for GSP Plus

Negotiations are also underway between Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) for access to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus after the expiry of the European GSP in 2029, according to Bangladesh Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh’s remarks to the media in September 2021.

Bangladesh would need to make changes to its labor law and regulations covering economic processing zones (EPZs) to secure GSP Plus eligibility.

Status of Bangladesh CEPA talks with India

India and Bangladesh first discussed signing the CEPA in 2018 and the matter was addressed during a high-level meeting between March 1-4 in New Delhi. Prior to that a Joint Study Group (JSG) had submitted its recommendations regarding the feasibility of the CEPA.

Following that, in April, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi mentioned during his visit to India that he would like the two countries to sign a deal within a year.

Munshi also called for finalizing the joint study by May, as per Indian officials – though no official timeline has been set. New Delhi has, however, noted the political push from Dhaka.

India’s position on a CEPA with Bangladesh

On March 7, India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal noted the government’s intentions to advance a CEPA with Bangladesh. India would be pushing for greater cooperation with Dhaka in various sectors, such as defense and pharmaceutical production.

Goyal suggested the two countries should also work on building resilient supply chains and exploring investment growth opportunities in areas like textiles, jute products, and leather and footwear.

India has extended US$8 billion through three lines of credit to Bangladesh – this is the largest concessional credit India has given any country.

Bangladesh-India bilateral trade and investment

Trade profile

India currently dominates the bilateral trade relationship and Bangladesh is India’s sixth largest trade partner. In FY 2020-21, India’s trade with Bangladesh accounted for about 3.3 percent of exports and 0.3 percent of imports. India exported goods worth US$9.7 billion to Bangladesh and imported goods worth US$1.3 billion from Bangladesh.

Major exports to Bangladesh include petroleum products, agricultural commodities like rice (other than basmati), cotton, and cereals, vehicle parts, and machinery and mechanical appliances. Diplomatic efforts, duty reduction, such as on rice imports by Bangladesh, and strengthening rail connectivity are among key factors facilitating bilateral trade.

Bilateral trade has thus been showing steady improvement but there is enough room for more growth. Some studies show there is scope to lift bilateral trade to reach US$25 billion via an FTA. In fact, in as recently as 2018-19, Bangladesh exports to India had jumped 52 percent from 2017-18 to cross the US$1 billion mark. Dhaka is now working to diversify its exports; in 2020, Bangladesh exported two large cargo vessels – handed to the India’s Jindal Steel Works – in a boost to the local shipbuilding industry.

The two countries currently have a goods agreement in place under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), under which New Delhi has granted Bangladesh duty-free, quota-free access on all items except for alcohol and tobacco. A CEPA would introduce agreements on service trade and investment.

Bangladesh is the second-largest exporter of ready-made garments worldwide (counts for about 80 percent of its export profile) and India is a key market. Bangladesh also has a significant consumer market of around 170 million people, whose spending power is growing.

Recent developments facilitating trade between Bangladesh and India

  • Detailed project proposal (DPP) approved for developing a container handling facility at Sirajganj Bazar
  • 900 meter new siding line constructed at Benapole for running freight trains between Bangladesh and India
  • Construction of loading and unloading platform completed at Darshana to enable import of all commodities from India by rail via Darshana
  • DPP approved for developing inland container depot (ICD) at Ishwardi (rail and road based ICD)
  • Reopening border haats – closed due to COVID restrictions
  • Petrapole-Benapole Integrated Check Post (ICP) to soon become operational 24/7

Investment facilitation

Bangladesh is keen to attract greater Indian investments. On April 24, Commerce Minister Munshi stated: “We are in advanced talks with Tata Group that already has plants in Bangladesh, for a large automotive investment, as also with Ashok Leyland,” when speaking to the media. Domino’s India has opened 25 outlets in Dhaka and will grow that number 10-fold and more as well as establish a major factory. Munshi is also seeking investment from the bordering Indian state of West Bengal.

Bangladesh has also set aside multiple special economic zones (SEZs) for Indian companies and investors, targeting sectors like telecom, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). In fact, India, Japan, and China have all shown interest in setting up economic zones in Bangladesh as a way to stimulate bilateral trade and investment.

As per reporting by The Hindu in November 2021, “Bangladesh has offered to establish two Special Economic Zones for Indian companies besides allowing Life Insurance Corporation to start operations in the country.” These are located in Mongla and Bheramara. This year, on April 3, Bangladesh media reported that the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) had signed an agreement with Adani Ports and SEZ Limited to set up an Indian Economic Zone at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar (BSMSN) in Mirsarai in the port city of Chattogram.

On the other side, Bangladesh companies want to invest in India, such as the Walton Group, which makes consumer durables, computer and telecom equipment, among others. India currently imposes restrictions on foreign investments from countries with whom it shares a border and clearances granted on a case-by-case basis.

In December 2020, the India-Bangladesh CEO Forum was launched to generate policy inputs on facilitating smoother business relations between the two neighbors. However, as of March 2022, the Forum was yet to hold its first meeting, likely set back due to the pandemic.

Other areas of strategic cooperation

Besides trade and investment, New Delhi and Dhaka are also prioritizing partnership in areas of artificial intelligence, cyber security, start-ups, fintech, and hydropower – as seen during the 7th Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting between the two foreign ministers S Jaishankar and AK Abdul Momen in June. The JCC meeting took place after two years.

Cooperation in expanding railway connectivity and cross-border river management and environmental conservation are other important objectives in the bilateral relationship; India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers. Energy security is also a matter of concern to both India and Bangladesh, which at present includes managing crude oil imports from Russia despite global sanctions.

Bangladesh also provides connectivity between Northeast India with Southeast Asia after the route via Myanmar close following a military coup in that country in 2021.

Calibrated approach required from Dhaka

Bangladesh imports from India amount to about 14 percent of its total imports, with average tariffs of more than 20 percent.

However, Bangladesh also generates significant revenue from its international trade tariffs, with India and China being major sources. Such revenue dependency will need to be factored when Dhaka negotiates its trade deals to ensure fiscal stability amid market gains.

At present, various economic headwinds, such as rising fuel prices following the Ukraine crisis, have pushed Dhaka to apply for a US$4.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to meet balance of payment and budgetary needs. The country’s central bank, Bangladesh Bank, recently discouraged imports of luxury goods, fruits, non-cereal foods, and canned and processed foods to preserve dollars.

According to Al Jazeera, in the first 11 months of the fiscal year that ended June 30, Bangladesh imports had jumped 39 percent, but exports grew only 34 percent. Travel disruption and job losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic also caused remittances to fall five percent in June to US$1.8 billion. As a result, the Bangladesh taka has declined approximately 20 percent against the US dollar in the last three months.

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