Eastern Times, Correspondent, Dhaka, 19 November: Bangladesh has sought duty-free access of 42 products to Nepal under the proposed Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA). The Ministry of Commerce has recently handed over the list of products to the Government of Nepal.
Nepal is expected to come up with its reply in this regard this month.
The land-locked South Asian country had earlier sought duty-free access of its 20 products to Bangladesh while Dhaka agreed to it.
According to officials at the commerce ministry, the proposed PTA draft between the two countries will be finalised only after Nepal’s consent to Bangladesh’s list of products.
The draft will then be presented to the cabinet for approval. If all goes well, an agreement will then be signed which will be the second bilateral trade deal for Bangladesh. Dhaka will sign the first PTA with Bhutan on 6 December.
The list of Bangladeshi products sent to Nepal includes readymade garments, refrigerators, motorcycles, medicines, potatoes, chewing gum, sweet biscuits, toast biscuits, jam-jelly, fruit and vegetable juices, plastic tableware, kitchen wires, uncoated paper and paperboard, wooden office and home furniture and plastic furniture.
Readymade garments include T-shirts, shirts and men’s undergarments.
Commerce Secretary Mohammad Zafar Uddin told The Business Standard, “Hopefully, we will be able to complete all the formalities of signing the PTA with Nepal within this year.”
The products that Nepal wanted a duty-free access in the market of Bangladesh are: green vegetables, lentils, cardamom, ginger, various fruits, tea, coffee, herbal products, brooms, noodles, mineral water, clinker and cement, dairy products, handmade paper, carpets made of wool, pashmina (winter sheet or shawl), footwear, silver jewelry, and contact lenses.
The Ministry of Commerce asked the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission to review the implications of giving duty-free facilities to Nepal.
Last September, the commission met with representatives of various business organisations to assess the impact of the products and voted in favour of providing duty-free access to the products other than brooms, tea, cement, and footwear.
According to the FTA cell of the Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh has a trade surplus with only Nepal in South Asia.
For this reason, the Government of Nepal is proceeding very cautiously with the signing of the proposed PTA.
Nepal is taking extra time although the country is due to decide by December 3 on the list of products sent by Bangladesh.
In Fiscal Year 20219-20, Bangladesh exported goods worth $46 million to Nepal. At the same time, the import from Nepal was $15 million.