Bangladesh eyes to sign FTA with Malaysia: Tipu Munshi

Staff Correspondent

27 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh is trying to sign Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Malaysia as part of its efforts to create sustainable trade opportunities with different countries, Commerce Minister Tipu Mushi said on Wednesday.

 “Although, some progress have been made since agreeing to sign a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on 13 January 2015, but still we need to put lots of effort to conclude the negotiation and sign the proposed FTA,” he said.

He was speaking at a virtual discussion on ‘Bangladesh-Malaysia FTA: Challenges and Opportunity,’ organised by Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI).

“Bangladesh has trade and economic ties with Malaysia for a long time. There is still ample scope of enhancing the ties that should be cashed in on,” Tipu Munshi said.

Mentioning that Bangladesh has created various trade and investment opportunities, he said the work of setting up 100 special economic zones at some important places is going on in full swing and some are near finishing line. “Many countries have come forward to invest in these economic zones. Malaysia will also benefit if it invest there,” he called upon Malaysian investors.

He pointed out that Bangladesh has simplified investment policy and is offering lucrative investment facilities. “Bangladesh is now an attractive investment destination.”

Since 1977, Bangladesh has signed four agreements with Malaysian government to ease trade and economic relations with the southeast Asian nation, the commerce minister informed.

“Bangladesh has taken all the steps to ease trade to move forward in a competitive global trade,” he said. He also informed that the country is resorting to modern technology to create business and trade scopes.

High Commissioner of Bangladesh Md Golam Sarwar, High Commissioner of Malaysia Haznah Md Hashim were the guests of honour at the event chaired and moderated by BMCCI president Raquib Mohammad Fakhrul.

BMCCI president said that Bangladesh’s future trade benefits will largely depend on bilateral free trade agreements as we will lose duty-free facilities and a host of trade preferences once graduating into middle-income nation from the league of least developed countries (LDCs) in 2024.

Highlighting the first bilateral trade agreement of Bangladesh, the newly signed PTA with Bhutan in December 2020, Fakhrul also mentioned that Bangladesh has no FTA officially signed with any country yet.

Deals like FTAs and PTAs will help Bangladesh to continue getting the duty benefits after its graduation. Our business communities of the both countries need to be ready for it.

High Commissioner Haznah Md Hashim said Malaysia and Bangladesh enjoy a close bilateral and strong people-to people relations.

“Let therefore the established trade relations between these two Nations be stronger without unnecessary issues on trade barrier,” she noted. She signified the importance of FTA by saying that if FTA were ever a mistake, Malaysia would not have repeated it again and again, and ended up concluding it for 16 times since 1993, and the latest was concluded during the midst of the current pandemic. High Commissioner Md Golam Sarwar said that after the graduation, international trade will be more competitive for Bangladesh.

“To address this challenge, we need to formulate appropriate economic policy (and conduct economic diplomacy) by signing FTAs with the potential trading partner countries. The focus for our policy makers should then be how best to minimize the costs of FTAs while maximizing their benefits,” he said.

Business community, as key stakeholder in the process, will need to explore mutually beneficial and pragmatic ways for connecting businesses between our two countries, with promise for shared prosperity, he added.

Member of Bangladesh Trade & Tariff Commission (BTTC) Dr Mostafa Abid Khan presented a keynote paper at the webinar.

Director, Strategic Negotiations Division of Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) of Malaysia Amri Bukhairi Bakhtiar, Joint Secretary of Ministry of Commerce Noor Md. Mahbubul Haq, Executive Secretary of Malaysia South-South Association (MASSA) Ng Su Fun, research director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem joined it.

Immediate Past BMCCI president and an FBCCI director Syed Moazzam Hossain and managing director of Standard Chartered Malaysia Abrar Anwar participated in the discussion and shared their thoughts on FTA. The closing remark of the webinar was given by BMCCI’s vice-president Anwar Shahid.