The Daily Star, Dhaka
Dhaka needs bilateral FTAs to get maximum from Safta says commerce minister
Star Business Report
1st March 2004
Bangladesh needs bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with major south Asian nations to get maximum trade benefits from South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta), Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury said yesterday.
"When it comes to regional FTA, big economies like India and Pakistan may not offer handsome duty cut due to distinct interest with an individual country. But they may offer large duty cut in bilateral FTA with Bangladesh," he said.
Multilateral, regional and bilateral trading arrangements need to go together to get maximum benefit from regional economic integration of south Asian countries, the minister said.
Regional trading arrangement is better than multilateral pact and bilateral deal is another step ahead of regional agreement, he said at a seminar on ’Saarc Regional Economic Integration’ organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB).
"So, Bangladesh needs to pursue the tripartite trading arrangements to get optimal benefits from new global trade regime under the World Trade Organisation," Khosru said.
He said regional economic integration of Saarc countries will create new trade opportunities.
Non-tariff barriers, anti-dumping measures and harmonisation of duty structure should be preceded free trade talks, he said.
South Asian countries tend to develop trade relation with Western countries, as there is little economic integration among them, he said. "No countries can produce everything for their consumers. Countries should concentrate on comparative advantage for products and forge economic integration," he said.
Commerce Secretary Suhel Ahmed said south Asian countries have made minimal progress in regional economic integration.
"Regional groupings are dominant phenomenon in present global trade order. Countries forge regional bloc for security blanket for trade and Bangladesh should also follow it," he added.
Jamal Uddin Ahmed, past president of ICAB and former deputy prime minister of Bangladesh, Akhtar Sohel Kasem, president of ICAB, Anwaruddin Chowdhury, past president of ICAB, and Aftab ul Islam, president of American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh, were present.