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Dhaka may provide 522 products with free access

Daily Star, Dhaka

Dhaka may provide 522 products with free access

Jasim Uddin Khan

5 March 2006

Dhaka is likely to provide 522 products of three least developed countries (LDCs) of Bimstec with duty-free access between June 2006 and June 2009. The country may also provide the same products of three other developing countries of the seven-nation bloc with duty-free access from June 2011.

Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman at a recent high-level meeting approved the list of 522 products for the facility, sources said. The products now enjoy 10 percent tariff line.

Bangladesh will put forward the duty-free offer at the next working group meeting of Bimstec FTA talks scheduled for March 10-12 in New Delhi.

The Delhi meeting will also discuss rules of origin criteria and some other outstanding issues.

The 12th meeting of the Trade Negotiation Committee of Bimstec will be held in Colombo in the first week of April to narrow all differences.

The 11th round of Trade Negotiation Committee (TNC) meeting of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical Economic Cooperation was held in Bangkok on February 6-11.

Rules of origin, negative list, dispute settlement mechanism and safeguard measures are four major components of the FTA accord on trade in goods. Members only have reached consensus on only dispute settlement mechanism, a government official said.

According to the framework agreement of the Bimstec Free Trade Area, trade liberalisation will begin on July 1 this year.

Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand established Bimstec in 1997 to promote trade and investment, technology, energy cooperation, transport and communications, tourism and agriculture within the region.

Nepal and Bhutan joined the regional forum later and the member countries signed the Bimstec framework agreement in 2004. Three separate agreements — agreement on trade in goods, agreement on trade in services and agreement on investment — will be signed in phases, reads the framework agreement.

The negotiations on services and investment will begin after the introduction of the agreement on goods.