Booming Bangladesh Prepares To Renegotiate

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STUTI AICH

As Dhaka moves up the global per–capita–income hierarchy and shuns the tag of  a Least Developed Country (LDC), it’s time for a new free trade agreement between India and Bangladesh which means that India’s trade concessions that are based on the previous status will become void in three years.

Bangladesh’s commerce minister Tofail Ahmed, who is in Delhi to attend a WTO meeting said that “Bangladesh’s per capita income is now $1,610, way higher than the $1,230 level set for defining an LDC. This graduation means we will have to renegotiate a lot of trade arrangements, including with India from which we get duty-free, quota-free access on a host of items.”

Tofail Ahmed

A nation which has got rid of the LDC status and as earned the reputation of a developing nation, gets three years’ reprieve during which trade and financing concessions given to it as an LDC, will continue.

The commerce minister has been in talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding India–Bangladesh relations and had suggested that “there can be two ways for the current trade framework by which India gives us duty free access to continue – either India continues to give us those benefits unilaterally or we negotiate a new free trade agreement”.

Ahmed said he would be inviting Indian commerce minister Suresh Prabhu to visit his country soon. “We can discuss trade issues then… in this meeting bilateral trade was not discussed.”

Presently there are tariff barriers on jute and apparel exports to India, which have been affecting trade relations between the two countries. India has awarded duty–free access to all Bangladeshi goods, except 25 alcoholic and beverage items, but has imposed a counter-vailing duty on apparel and an anti-dumping duty on jute.

 

Bangladesh’s per capita income is now $1,610, way higher than the $1,230 level set for defining an LDC. This graduation means we will have to renegotiate a lot of trade arrangements, including with India from which we get duty-free, quota-free access on a host of items

 

However, apparel exports as well as exports of light industrial and consumer goods to India have picked up in recent years. Bangladesh’s FMCG major Praan has become a household name in India’s northeast.

India–Bangladesh trade stands at $7.5 billion with India’s exports accounting for $6.7 billion and Bangladesh’s exports at $800 million.

Analysts estimate trade between the two nations could reach as high as $10 billion by 2020. ■

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