Daily Star, Dhaka
Govt looks to sign FTAs with rich nations
Star Business Report
5 March 2014
The government plans to sign free trade agreements (FTAs) with developed countries to boost exports following similar moves by India, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said yesterday.
“India is going to sign an FTA with the European Union, but we have decided to sign FTAs with all the developed counties,” he said.
Russia is a good export destination for Bangladesh, but the nation’s duties are high; we can create an opportunity through an FTA with Russia, Ahmed said. “This way, we are making up our minds to boost exports in this time of globalisation and liberalisation.”
He spoke at a business networking programme organised by Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BGCCI) at Dhaka Westin.
However, the minister did not give details on the countries that the deals will be signed with or any timeframe.
Garment exports will rise to $30 billion by 2015 and $50 billion by 2030, Ahmed said, adding that Bangladeshi businesses know how to overcome challenges during competition.
In response to a query, the minister said: “Importers will be allowed to import fire safety equipment, free of duties.”
On the Rana Plaza building collapse that took lives of at least 1,130 people, he said: “It was just an accident.”
“Accidents like the Rana Plaza collapse took place in the US and other countries as well, but nobody talks about those,” he said.
“They are talking about Bangladesh, as we are growing and developing.”
Bangladesh is struggling to regain the generalised system of preferences from the US, as it has negatively affected Bangladesh’s image abroad, said Ferdinand von Weyhe, chargé d’affaires of German embassy.
The situation will not improve overnight, he said, adding that Bangladesh has made noticeable developments on safety issues in the last few months.
The country also has potential in sectors like information technology. The IT sector can create more jobs in Bangladesh, he said.
Cheap labour is an advantage, but the country has some challenges such as infrastructure and energy deficiencies, he said.
Corruption is another challenge, he said, adding that Bangladesh should show its business opportunities to the German investors.
The EU is Bangladesh’s core market, receiving 55.6 percent of the country’s total exports, said Daniel Seidl, the executive director of BGCCI.
Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Germany has grown by more than $1 billion from 2009 to 2013, to stand at more than $4 billion now, Seidl said.
Germany is the second biggest export destination of Bangladesh, he said.
Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, also spoke.