Removing of various tariff and non-tariff barriers on exports from Bangladesh by Indian authorities is the key to reducing the trade gap between the two neighbouring countries, speakers at a city dialogue said on Tuesday.
Widening trade gap, which is largely in favour of India, is standing in the way of greater bilateral economic cooperation between the countries, they observed.
The observation came at a Bangladesh-India media dialogue on economic cooperation between the two countries held on Tuesday. Institute of Conflict, Law & Development Studies (ICLDS) organised the dialogue.
“Non-tariff barriers are some of the major obstacles to export growth from Bangladesh to India,” said Syed Ishtiaq Reza, director of Ekattor Television.
In 2016-17 fiscal year, the country’s total imports from India stood at $6.15 billion while it exported only 0.576 million to India, increasing the bilateral trade deficit at $5.5 billion, he informed.
Anti-dumping duties, counterveiling duties, negative product list and other trade barriers imposed by India are actually hurting Bangladeshi exports to India, he noted.
He also raised the issue of transit fee.He said the government fixed Tk 192 transit fees for per tonne Indian goods even though the tariff commission estimated it at Tk 1,058.
“A major focus should be put on trade-- the lifeline of economy. The bilateral trade would increase more if India did not obstruct Bangladeshi exports,” said Monowar Hossain, ex-president of Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF).
He said RMG is the mainstay of Bangladeshi trade but it has been excluded from the duty-free and quota-free list that India offered to Bangladesh.
If allowed, only shoe and T-shirt export can boost the country’s trade with India to more than $1 billion, speakers argued.
About the transit fees issue, Jayanta Roy Chowdhury, business editor of The Telegraph, India, said transit fees should not be fixed at a higher rate that Indian businessmen sees costlier than using the detour path.
Another Indian journalist Pritam Bose added that Bangladesh should look for value addition as well as attracting FDI, otherwise only improving connectivity won’t pay off.
Jahiduzzaman Faruq, a senior journalist of Daily Amader Arhtanity, observed that India’s economy is still conservative compared to that of Bangladesh. “India should segregate its policies when dealing with Bangladesh,” he said.
He suggested for Bangladesh-India joint ventures on jute and jute goods. He also suggested stopping illegal bilateral trades. President of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin singled out Indian bureaucracy as a big problem for increasing Bangladeshi exports to India.
He called for diversifying of local export basket so that exports in India may increase.
Local concerns for Rampal power project, border killing and stringent conditions of Indian Line of Credit (LoC) also came up in the discussion.
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister’s Energy Adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury also identified Indian bureaucracy as a big problem.
He said many bureaucrats in New Delhi are migrants from Punjab or other state who treats Bangladeshis in different way.
Similarly, the shadow of Pakistani era also engulfed a segment of politicians in Bangladesh as well, he mentioned, also calling for sharing prosperity by the two countries.