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Govt to set up cell for negotiating FTAs

Financial Express, Bangladesh

Govt to set up cell for negotiating FTAs

Shakhawat Hosaain

24 December 2004

The government will set up a free trade cell (FTC) soon with a responsibility to negotiate regional and bilateral deals with a view to protecting the country’s interests in trade-related issues.

"The proposed FTC, a joint initiative of the commerce ministry and World Bank, will be responsible to advise the government on how to handle bilateral and regional trade deals in the next coming years," a commerce ministry official told the FE Thursday.

So long the government has been taking tips from the Free Trade Group, comprising businessmen and researchers due to non-existence of such a cell to fix up strategies to negotiate important talks, he added.

It, however, decided to set up a cell for a long-term basis and has been seeking the help of the donor agencies to run it. The WB has agreed to help the government with financial assistance during a meeting with the commerce ministry officials last Monday, sources said.

The WB would inform the ministry how much money they will contribute for establishing the cell in the next week, sources added.

The ministry has already prepared a project proposal worth Tk 90.39 million with the government sharing 20 per cent of its cost.

Experts said the FTC would be the centre-point of the ministry once the cell starts functioning as the country has been negotiating to strike free trade agreements (FTAs) with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

It is expected that Bangladesh might start negotiating FTA with Malaysia and Nepal soon and the FTC would be able to contribute on more important issues like BIMSTEC and SAFTA, they added.

Besides, the cell would help capacity building as well as efficiency of the local government officials and experts.
Sources said the FTC would be formed following the model of World Trade Organisation (WTO) cell in the commerce ministry. A director general will head the cell that is expected to run for two years initially as per project proposal, they added.