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BD wants duty-free access of all products to Indian market

Financial Express, Bangladesh

BD wants duty-free access of all products to Indian market

By Syful Islam

5 August 2011

Bangladesh has sought duty-free access of all its products to the Indian market to bring down the trade gap between the two neighbouring countries, Commerce Minister Faruk Khan said.

"During the recent meetings with the Indian foreign minister and the commerce minister I have requested them to allow duty-free access of all the Bangladeshi goods," the commerce minister told the FE Wednesday.

India has 480 items in the negative list for the least developed countries (LDCs) under the Trade in Goods Agreement of South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). Although Bangladesh is an LDC, the same volume of its goods were also not granted duty waiver facilities to the Indian market.

Bangladesh has a trade gap of over US$ 3.0 billion with India but, statistics show, exports to the giant neighbour in the recent years have increased significantly. Dhaka has exported goods worth $ 304 million in 2009-10 fiscal year while exports have increased to $ 512 million in the just-concluded fiscal.

Dhaka is also preparing a fresh list of 61 items for sending it to New Delhi and for including the same in the agenda of discussions during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to seek duty-free access.

Referring to his meetings with the two ministers Faruk Khan said, "I have sought cooperation on disputes on border issues, firing in border, exchange of enclaves, and also about the duty-free access of goods."

"I have tried hard to make them understand that if they resolve the problems and grant duty-free access of all our items, they wouldn’t make any loss," he said.

Mr Khan said, "Both the ministers have assured me of further cooperation and gave positive hints relating to my appeal for duty-free access of all the Bangladeshi items."

He also had a meeting with the adviser to the Indian foreign minister to whom he said, "Why are you not taking the advantage of providing duty and quota-free access of Bangladeshi goods?"

Sources said the issue of duty-free access of 61 Bangladeshi items was discussed at various bilateral meetings including the one held in April during the visit of Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, another in May with the Indian textile secretary and in the recent foreign office consultation.

During the meetings the Indian sides were found to be positive on the issue and said that they will inform Bangladesh of their decision after consultation with the stakeholders.

At the foreign office consultation the Indian foreign secretary said New Delhi is considering the issue and a number of measures, including signing of a memorandum of understanding on textiles, were being considered to promote exports from Bangladesh to India.

Meanwhile, two months back India had sought duty-free market access for its 224 products to Bangladesh under the SAFTA accord.