August 10, 2022, 5:32 am

Staff Correspondent

2022-06-05 22:16:11 BdST

Steps should be taken to sign FTA with Japan: Tipu

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has said that steps should be taken for signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Japan as it is a friendly country to Bangladesh and also a development partner.

"We are positive about signing the FTA with Japan," he said on Sunday while addressing a seminar titled "The survey on FTA/EPA between Japan and Bangladesh" organized by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and Japan Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JBCCI) held at a city hotel.

Bangladesh has been trying to sign FTAs, and Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) with some major trading partners, but so far only a PTA was signed with Bhutan in December last year.

Recently, the sub-committee on smooth LDC graduation recommended signing trade agreements with seven important trading partners like China, India, Japan, and Russia, but only China and India have expressed interest to sign the trade agreements with Bangladesh, The minister said.

"We need investment from Japan," Tipu said adding that his government wants the signing of FTAs and PTAs with the major trading partners.

ITO Naoki, ambassador of Japan in Bangladesh said both the countries are interested to conduct and joint study on the feasibility of signing of the FTA between the two countries.

"We do not have the option for GSP extension. We need to sign agreements and FTA may be an option for market access to Japan for Bangladesh," Naoki said at the event on sharing the outcomes of the survey on FTA/EPA between Japan and Bangladesh.

Foreign, commerce, finance and agricultural ministries have already started a discussion on signing the FTA between Bangladesh and Japan, Naoki said.

Diplomats, government high-ups and businessmen from both Bangladesh and Japan participated in the discussion.

Tapan Kanti Ghosh, senior secretary to the commerce ministry said the signing of the FTAs, PTAs and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) depends on the willingness of the partnering countries.

"Sometimes, the signing of the trade agreements didn't take place because of political, strategic and purely economic factors. However, Japan is a very important country for Bangladesh," he added.

However, last week a draft has been published which will act as the guideline for signing the trade deals with trading partners and other regional trade pacts, Tapan added.

The survey revealed that some 85 percent or 111 companies in both Bangladesh and Japan want the signing of an FTA between the two countries to continue duty benefits even after the graduation of Bangladesh from the least developed  country (LDC) to a developing country in 2026.

Some 20 percent or 26 companies want to relocate from Bangladesh to other competitive countries like the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), China and India if the FTA is not signed to retain the duty benefit after Bangladesh's graduation to a developing country from the Least Developed Country (LDC).

Only one company denied the FTA because of incentives for garment factories housed inside the Export Processing Zones (EPZs). Of the surveyed, some 87 percent or 26 Bangladeshi and Multinational Companies also want the signing of the FTA between the two countries.

Both JETRO and JBCCI jointly surveyed between August 5 and October 14, 2021, to know about the signing of the FTA between Bangladesh and Japan.

Japan is the only Asian nation where the export of goods from Bangladesh crossed the $1.0 billion mark for the first time since 2012 because of garment export to Japan from the country. Of the total export to Japan from In Bangladesh, 95 per cent is apparel.

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