The Telegraph, Calcutta
Bangladesh keen on free trade agreement
A STAFF REPORTER
Calcutta, July 9 2005: Bangladesh is keen to sign a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India.
“It is in the interest of Bangladesh to take a close look at the free trade agreement which India has proposed,” said Farooq Sobhan, president, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute. Sobhan was speaking at a seminar organised jointly by the institute and South-Asia Enterprise Development Facility (SEDF), a technical assistance arm of the International Finance Corporation, here today.
The trade balance between the two countries is heavily tilted in favour of India - exports from India to Bangladesh jumped to $1.6 billion in 2004-05 from $89 million in 2003-04. “However, various steps are needed to improve the trade relations between the two countries,” Sobhan said.
“We shall ensure that the joint working group of senior customs officials and senior commerce ministry officials meet in the next 4-6 weeks to discuss various ways of facilitating bilateral trade between the two countries,” he added.
The seminar also discussed ways to promote trade between Bangladesh and the northeastern states of India. “The volume of informal trade between Bangladesh and Northeast is as much as that of formal trade. Thus, both the countries are losing valuable revenue,” said Marlon Lezama, programme manager of SEDF.
The trade volume between Bangladesh and Northeast is around $40 million, while the volume of informal trade is about $30 million.
“Studies by the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute and SEDF have identified non-tariff barriers as a major impediment to trade,” Lezama said.
“We shall support efforts by chamber bodies to increase business contacts,” he added.