October 24, 2020, 4:21 am


2020-09-27 10:44:11 BdST

Govt mulls signing FTA with 11 countries

The government has moved to sign preferential trade deals with 11 countries to get duty-free market access there as part of its efforts to enhance export earnings in the context of the country’s graduation from LDCs in a few years.

The countries include Australia, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, South Korea, Argentina, United Arab Emitares and Sri Lanka.

The ministry of commerce is now taking necessary preparations for signing free trade agreement (FTA) or preferential trade agreement with those countries, the ministry sources said.

With the move, the government expects to woo FDI as well alongside getting duty facility and improving bilateral trade ties with those countries. As part of the initiative, FTA is being signed with SAARC countries Nepal and Bhutan first, which the ministry of commerce is now preparing for.

“We’re going to sign PTA with Bhutan on priority basis and gradually we’ll sign similar deals with some other countries,” Commerce Secretary Dr Md Jafar Uddin said. “This will open up a new window of opportunities for our international trade,” he added.

Recently, the Cabinet Division gave nod to the proposal for signing preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Bhutan after the proposal was vetted by the law ministry and its tax-related ins and outs came under NBR scrutiny.

The government is going for such preferential trade arrangement as it can create enough jobs in the country, help increase local and foreign investment besides creating scope of duty-free exports, according to the commerce ministry officials.

Experience of signing SAARC Preferential Trading Arrangement (SAPTA) and Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) will help the government in the bilateral trade deals as it eyes to get more benefits from these preferential trading arrangements, official sources said.  

The country is likely to successfully graduate from least developed country (LDC) status by 2024, which will end preferential trade benefits it is now enjoying under the WTO arrangement.

The PTA with Bhutan is being signed after a long discussion with the neighbouring country, the commerce ministry officials informed.  In its report on PTA proposal, National Board of Revenue (NBR) has said with the deal, Bangladesh’s exports to Bhutan will increase and the country will be more benefited, the commerce secretary said.

Under the deal, some 100 Bangladeshi products get duty-free access to the market of Bhutan while Bhutan will get duty-free access to Bangladesh market for its 34 products, the commerce ministry officials said, adding that the number of products can be increased gradually through discussions.

The ministry of finance has given consent to the signing of FTA with China, India and Saudi Arab in a bid to expand Bangladeshi products’ market and enhance exports and lure foreign investment.

In his budget speech, the finance minister also hinted at signing such deal to overcome the Covid-19 crisis.

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