Govt assessing FTA challenges, options

Ahammad Parvej Khan

10th December, 2016 01:05:02 printer

Govt assessing FTA challenges, options

The government is attaching importance to signing of free trade agreements (FTA) with the countries which are not providing duty-free and quota-free facilities to Bangladeshi products, said officials.


Experts, however, say that signing of FTAs with the countries with which the bilateral trade is in favour of Bangladesh or it enjoys a trade surplus will not benefit the country. “Rather we have to try signing of FTAs with the countries with which we have a trade deficit,” an expert said.


Commerce Ministry Joint Secretary Munir Chowdhury told daily sun that the government has a policy guideline for FTA and efforts are on to find out countries with which FTA will benefit the country most.


He said, “Our service sector is very potential.If we can sign FTAs on service sector it will be more beneficial.” He said if an FTA is signed on ‘Mode-4’ (manpower) it will be good for the country since it has huge skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled manpower worth exporting.


Chowdhury pointed out that Bangladesh has no FTA with any countries, but there are bilateral agreements with 44 countries. “Once an FTA is signed with a country, goods from that country will enter our country without any tariff,” the joint secretary said, adding that there must be some analyses on which FTA will best serve the interests of the country.


He said a process is under way to sign FTAs with Turkey, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.


Chowdhury mentioned that the commerce minister has already visited Sri Lanka while a Bangladesh delegation had visited Turkey to discuss issues related to FTAs. “Political will is a big factor in signing bilateral agreements like FTAs and the present government is very positive about it,” he said.


He said Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Tariff Commission are the main stakeholders of any free trade deal and the government is trying to determine its stance on signing of FTAs with some countries through discussion with all the stakeholders.


Chowdhury further said remarkable progress in terms of coastal shipping and transit protocol has been made with India. “BBIN has come into being in recently so all these would play a very positive role in bilateral trade with India,” Munir Chowdhury said.


President of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Siddiqur Rahman told daily sun that US market is vital for Bangladesh. “Signing of FTA with countries like the US and Russia will be much beneficial for Bangladesh,” the BGMEA president said. He said FTA with countries where Bangladesh makes more exports and fewer imports will be much more beneficial.


“Many countries are already giving us duty-free and quota-free facilities. But we don’t get such facilities in the US market. Signing an FTA or having duty-free facility from the US will be a great success for us,” he added.