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Bangladesh-Nepal bilateral relations


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Bangladesh eyes preferential trade with Nepal for 140 products

Nepal is the only country in South Asia with which Bangladesh has a trade surplus

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Bangladesh government plans to sign a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Nepal for 140 products, including agro-processed food, dairy, ready-made garment, footwear, and electronics and home appliances.

Consulting the stakeholders last month, the Bangladesh Tariff Commission prepared the list of 140 "potential products", said Md Mayen Uddin Molla, assistant chief of the commission.

The other major products primarily identified include motorcycle, plastic, mineral water, lead-acid accumulator, glass and glassware, liquid dielectric transformers, static converters, and steel.

Following a request from the commerce ministry, the commission prepared the list, prioritising products – with an average export value of above $1 million – that Nepal imported from the global market in the last three years.

Commission officials said Bangladesh currently exports 52 out of these 140 products to Nepal.

"The commission will be able to finalise the product list within the next week," said Dr Mostafa Abid Khan, member of the statutory organisation.

Earlier, both countries expressed their interests in signing a PTA regime during the fourth meeting of the Nepal-Bangladesh commerce joint-secretary level technical committee held in Kathmandu during October 22-23, 2019.

They decided that Bangladesh would exchange a product request list with Nepal, seeking duty benefits.

Earlier in 2016, Bangladesh prepared a request list of 56 products and an offer list of 108 Nepalese products for preferential market access to Bangladesh; but it failed.

According to the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta), the Himalayan country now maintains a sensitive list of 998 products for the least developed countries (LDCs) and 1,036 products for non-LDCs that are not entitled to preferential trade benefits.

Bangladesh has been maintaining a list of 987 products for the LDCs and 993 products for non-LDCs as sensitive products.

The government also assessed the products' prospects for future export based on the analysis prepared by the Bangladesh Embassy in Nepal.

Some products have a high demand in Nepal such as processed food, electrical and electronics products, motorcycle, furniture, ceramic, melamine, ready-made garment, bicycle, and construction materials, according to the embassy. 

"The PTA will not allow duty-free market access but it may provide zero-duty facility to some products and lowered duty to some others," Ali Ahmad, chief executive officer of the Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute, told The Business Standard on Thursday.

He said after graduation from the LDC club in 2024, Bangladesh would lose duty-free and quota-free market access across the globe, except for the European Union (EU). 

The EU's market access facility will be over by 2027, Ali added.

As the preparation for that time, the government wants to sign some PTAs, free-trade agreements and a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with some countries that are important and potential export destinations for Bangladeshi products, he explained.

The signing of a PTA with Nepal would be beneficial for Bangladesh and a milestone for signing more of such agreements, Ali elaborated.

Electrical and electronics product manufacturer Walton's Executive Director Uday Hakim told The Business Standard that the company is exporting home appliances including air conditioner, television and refrigerator to Nepal, paying duty.

"If the government can sign such an agreement with Nepal, it would help boost bilateral trade," he said.

Furniture giant Hatil's Manager of international marketing Shamim Razib said, "We have opened an outlet in Nepal with a local partner, who imports our furniture paying 11.25 percent duty."

However, the government has not considered furniture in the proposed list for the PTA as the item is now out of Nepal's sensitive list under Safta.

Within the agreement, pharmaceutical products are also getting market access for duties ranging from 0 percent to 14 percent as it is also out of Nepal's sensitive list.

Duty slabs under Safta

Under the phased tariff liberalisation programme (TLP) of Safta, the non-LDCs are supposed to cut their tariffs to 20 percent in two years, and the LDCs to 30 percent.

The non-LDCs will have to cut their tariffs to 0-5 percent in five years (Sri Lanka in 6 years), while the LDCs will have to do so in eight years.

The non-LDCs will cut their tariffs for LDC products to 0-5 percent in 3 years. This TLP covers all tariff lines except those kept in the sensitive list by the member states. 

Trade surplus with Nepal 

Nepal is the only country in South Asia with which Bangladesh has a trade surplus. According to the Export Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh exported goods worth $38.04 million to Nepal during 2019-2020.

The major exporting items of Bangladesh to the land-locked Nepal include agricultural products, jute and jute goods, engineering products, pharmaceutical products, paper and paper board, cotton, chemical products, plastics and plastic articles, specialised textile, furniture, bedding, mattress, cushions and similar stuffed furnishing, knitwear, woven garments, frozen food, headgear and parts, home textile, man-made filaments and staple fibres, ceramic products, glass and glassware, clocks and watches and parts.

Bangladesh mainly imported vegetable products, prepared foodstuffs, beverages, spirits and vinegar, tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes, zinc and articles, products of the chemical or allied industries, sulphur, lime and cement, man-made staple fibre, soyabean oil and its fractions, brooms and brushes from Nepal.

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বাংলাদেশ সেনাবাহিনী প্রধানের নেপালের প্রতিরক্ষামন্ত্রী এবং সেনাবাহিনী প্রধানের সাথে সাক্ষাৎ
ঢাকা, ০৯ ফেব্রুয়ারি ২০২০ (রবিবার)ঃ নেপালে সফররত বাংলাদেশ সেনাবাহিনী প্রধান জেনারেল আজিজ আহমেদ, এসবিপি, বিএসপি, বিজিবিএম, পিবিজিএম, বিজিবিএমএস, পিএসসি, জি আজ রবিবার (০৯-২-২০২০) নেপালের সহকারী প্রধানমন্ত্রী ও প্রতিরক্ষামন্ত্রী ঈশ¡র পোখারেল (Ishwor Pokharel) এবং সেনাবাহিনী প্রধান জেনারেল পুর্না চন্দ্র থাপা (General Purna Chandra Thapa) এর সাথে সাক্ষাৎ করেন। সাক্ষাৎকালে সেনাবাহিনী প্রধান তাঁদের সাথে দুই দেশের সেনাবাহিনীর মধ্যে বিরাজমান বন্ধুত্বপূর্ণ সম্পর্কের উন্নয়ন, প্রশিক্ষণ বিনিময়, শুভেচ্ছা সফর ও পারস্পরিক সহযোগিতা বৃদ্ধি সংক্রান্ত বিবিধ বিষয়ে আলোচনা করেন।
সেনাবাহিনী প্রধান গত ০৭ ফেব্রুয়ারি ২০২০ তারিখ নেপালে পৌঁছালে নেপাল সেনাবাহিনী সদর দপ্তরে নেপালের একটি চৌকস সেনাদল বাংলাদেশ সেনাবাহিনী প্রধানকে গার্ড অব অনার প্রদান করে। সেনাবাহিনী প্রধান নেপালের আর্মি প্যাভিলিয়নে পুষ্পস্তবক অর্পনের মাধ্যমে নেপালের ‘বীর স¥ার্ট’ শহীদদের প্রতি শ্রদ্ধা নিবেদন করেন।
এছাড়াও, গতকাল (০৮ ফেব্রুয়ারি ২০২০) সেনাবাহিনী প্রধান নেপাল সেনাবাহিনীর ওয়ের্স্টান ডিভিশন সদর দপ্তর পরিদর্শন করেন। উল্লেখ্য, সফর শেষে সেনাবাহিনী প্রধান আগামী ১১ ফেব্রুয়ারি ২০২০ তারিখ দেশে প্রত্যাবর্তন করবেন।

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Bangladesh, Nepal to sign free trade deal soon

We can exchange our products and be in a win-win situation. So, the trade deal will definitely bring good results, said Nepal Foreign Minister Gyawali

Bangladesh and Nepal have agreed to sign a free trade agreement to boost bilateral trade.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi made the announcement after a meeting with Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali at the former's office on Monday.

The two countries will hold a secretary-level meeting in Dhaka on March 3 and 4 this year to get the deal signed.

A combined team will also be formed to work out the pros and cons of the agreement, Munshi said.

Gyawali came to Dhaka on a three-day visit on Monday.

"We are at the final stage of signing a free trade agreement with Nepal," Munshi told reporters, without giving any specific time for the deal.

He also said the Nepal foreign minister is very keen to use Bangladesh's Syedpur Airport for their import and export business. They are also allowed to use transit facilities via Bangladesh.

Nepal can also use Bangladesh's waterways, Munshi added.

The commerce minister expects the bilateral trade volume to increase after the free trade agreement is signed. 

Munshi said Bangladesh exported products worth $38 million to the Himalayan country and imported goods worth around $18 million last year.

The major items exported from Bangladesh to land-locked Nepal include agricultural products, jute and jute goods, engineering products, pharmaceutical products, paper and paper board, cotton, chemical products, ceramic products, glass and glassware and others.

Bangladesh mainly imports vegetable products, prepared foodstuff, beverages, spirits and vinegar, tobacco, zinc articles, chemical products, sulphur, lime and cement, man-made staple fibre and soya bean oil from Nepal.

"Nepal is interested in signing a deal with Bangladesh for free trade. I see huge possibilities in doing business between the two countries," said Nepal Foreign Minister Gyawali.

"Both Nepal and Bangladesh share a similar culture, and the counties also have similar potentials. We can exchange our products and be in a win-win situation. So the trade deal will definitely bring good results," he affirmed.

"Nepal has been generating hydropower. We would like to export our hydropower to Bangladesh. Actually everything is possible if we sign the free trade agreement," the Nepalese minister said.

It is a must to continue focusing on relationship, especially on business, for the development of the two countries, he said, adding that the relationship should be permanent.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh recently reached a decision over signing bilateral free trade agreements with Bhutan and Thailand after a series of discussions over two decades with both the nations.

Fresh talks to sign free trade deals with 17 other countries, including the United States, Turkey, China, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, are also in the pipeline.

According to the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta), Nepal now maintains a list of 998 sensitive products for least developed countries (LDCs), and 1,036 sensitive products for non-LDCs that are not entitled to preferential trade benefits.

Bangladesh also maintains a list of 987 sensitive products for LDCs, and 993 sensitive products for non-LDCs.

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Govt to allow Nepal to use Saidpur airport

The government has agreed to Nepal's proposal to use the Saidpur airport to enhance connectivity between the two friendly countries. It has declared the formation of a technical expert committee to examine the sort of flights that could use the airport. Both Bangladesh and Nepal have decided to form a task force that will discuss how to develop trade, connectivity, transit, transport, and all other issues between the two countries. The issues were discussed at a foreign-minister level meeting between Bangladesh

and Nepal at the state guest house, Meghna, in the capital. Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen led the Bangladesh side, while his Nepalese counterpart Pradeep Kumar Gyawali led his delegation. “Nepal has placed a proposal to use the Saidpur airport. We’ve welcomed the move. A technical expert committee will look into what types of flight can use it. We are upgrading the Saidpur airport. Right now, 12–14 flights go there from Dhaka.  So, Nepalese people will be able to land at the airport and can also move to Dhaka,” Momen told journalists after the meeting.

 Regarding trade barriers, the foreign minister said: “There are certain trade barriers—Nepal, in some cases, charges around 56 per cent tariffs. We’ve told them to reduce it. We have infrastructure problems. We’ll sort these issues out.” He also said that both countries discussed the removal of the tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The minister expressed hope that the ties regarding trade and investment between the two countries would increase in the coming days.

“There is not much tourism using the land route due to the infrastructure problem. Mostly, people fly to Nepal. We’ve discussed how to enhance it. We’ve recently signed an agreement on motor vehicle movement between Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. It’ll help increase tourism,” he said.

 The minister also said Nepal assured that it would stand by Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.  Terming the meeting as ‘productive’, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said Nepal and Bangladesh had  been close friends through thick and thin. There are many similarities and commonalities, including a common resolution for the betterment of their people, that connect the two friendly countries, he added.

 “We’ve discussed how to enhance mutual trade for the benefit of the two countries. Though the trade is at a modest level now, there are scopes to enhance it. We have decided to form a task force to discuss how to develop trade, connectivity, transit, and transport, among others,” he said.

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Nepal seeks cooperation from Bangladesh in establishing Defence University

Independent Online/UNB

Nepal has sought co-operation from Bangladesh in establishing National  Defence University of Nepal.

Chief of Nepalese Army General Purna Chandra Thapa sought the cooperation when he paid a courtesy call on President Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban in the evening.

Press secretary to the President Joynal Abedin briefed reporters after the meeting.  
 
Welcoming the Army chief of Nepal, President Hamid said, "The relation between Bangladesh and Nepal is very excellent. The exchange of visit of army of the two countries can play a positive role."

Hamid also said  many members of Nepalese Army participate in different courses of National Defence College of Bangladesh.

General Purna Chandra Thapa said the recent visit of Bangladesh Army Chief to Nepal will strengthen the relationship between the armed forces of the two countries.

Members of the Nepal Defence Force are getting the opportunity to enhance their skills and abilities by participating  in various courses in Bangladesh which is benefiting the Nepal Defence  Force, Thapa said.

The ambassador of Nepal to Bangladesh Dr Bansidhar Mishra, Principal Staff Officer ( PSO) Mohammad Mahfuzur Rahman were present during the meeting.

Secretaries concerned to the President were also present during the meeting.

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Bangladesh should try to replace India as an important arms supplier to Nepal. Sell them BD-08 rifles, ammunition at discounted rates, offer them advanced training. Offer to employ Gurkha members in Bangladesh's own army to strengthen irregular warfare capabilities of our own.

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Bangladesh to fund construction of Buddhist monastery in Nepal

The cabinet has approved a draft of an agreement on the construction of a Buddhist monastery in Nepal funded by Bangladesh.

The development came in a virtual meeting presided over by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday.

The proposed agreement will be signed between the Lumbini Development Trust of Nepal and the Government of Bangladesh.

The Trust has allocated a plot to Bangladesh after the country proposed to construct a monastery in Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, said Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam.

"The matter came to us from the religious affairs ministry. The area under the Lumbini Development Trust is deeply connected with Gautama Buddha. Buddhists from different countries have a strong connection with this place."

"A plot was allocated after Bangladesh expressed its interest in building a monastery or a pavilion there. It was all processed through the Bangladesh embassy," he added.

The Lumbini Development Trust has given the greenlight to the project, including the designs, which will cost an estimated Tk 512 million, said Anwarul.

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