Eastern Times, Special Correspondent , Dhaka, 8 November: Bangladesh will sign its first bilateral trade agreement – Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) – with Bhutan on 6 December.
On this auspicious day of 1971, Bhutan became the first country in the world to recognise Bangladesh’s independence.
On the same day, India also acknowledged Bangladesh as an independent nation. However, the first recognition came from Bhutan at 4pm.
The date of 6 December was chosen for the signing of a PTA to honour the day. The agreement is likely to be signed at 4pm in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.
Commerce Secretary Md Zafar Uddin told The Business Standard that the date of 6 December was set in consultation with the Bhutanese Ambassador to Bangladesh.
However, there is an obligation in Bhutan for anyone coming in from abroad to quarantine for 14 days because of Covid-19.
If this condition is relaxed, the agreement will be signed in Thimphu. If not, the PTA will be signed on the same day through a Letter of Exchange.
Under the PTA agreement, 10 Bangladeshi products – including ready-made garments – will get duty-free access to the Bhutanese market while 16 Bhutanese items will get such access to the Bangladesh market.
The two neighbouring countries will later be able to add more items to the duty-free list.
The Bangladeshi products the PTA will cover include: children’s clothing and accessories, men’s trousers, shirts, jackets and blazers, plywood, particle board, mineral and carbonated water, green tea, orange juice, pineapple juice, and guava juice.
Meanwhile, the Bhutanese products that will get duty-free access to Bangladesh’s market are: milk, natural honey, wheat or meslin flour, homogenised preparations of jams, fruit jellies, marmalade, soybeans, mineral water and carbonated water, wheat bran, quartzite, cement clinker, portland cement, soap, wooden particle board, ferrosilicon, iron bars and rods, non-alloy steel, and wooden furniture.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh is also mulling the idea of signing a transit agreement with Bhutan. Under the deal, Bhutan would be able to import and export goods using the Chittagong and Mongla sea ports using Bangladesh’s roads and railways.
Now, Bhutanese freight trucks can enter up to 200 meters of Bangladesh’s border via India.
The Ministry of Commerce has started collecting opinions from the ministries concerned by drafting the transit agreement.
According to ministry officials, a 20-year transit agreement was signed between Bangladesh and Bhutan in September 1980.
The agreement expired in 2000 due to lack of signing the protocol required for its implementation.
In 2017, a meeting between the commerce secretaries of Bangladesh and Bhutan caused the two to decide to sign a new transit agreement and protocol.