October 31, 2020, 4:09 am


ALIF

Published:
2020-09-22 11:18:51 BdST

Trade with Nepal, Bhutan: Dhaka seeks to carry goods thru Indian land


Bangladesh has lately strengthened its efforts to secure permission to use the Indian territory for the purpose of transporting goods to Nepal and Bhutan by its own vehicles.

The signing of a transit agreement has become all the more necessary as Bangladesh is about to strike the preferential trade agreements (PTAs) with the two mountainous nations, officials said.

Presently, Bangladeshi vehicles cannot reach the land borders of Nepal and Bhutan in the absence of a transit agreement with neighbouring India.

But Nepalese and Bhutanese vehicles carrying export-import goods come to the Bangladesh border as Kathmandu and Thimphu have land transit deals with New Delhi.

Besides, Indian and Bangladeshi vehicles are not allowed to cross each other's land borders for transporting bilateral export-import goods.

Officials said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has underscored the need for exploring ways so that Bangladeshi goods-laden vehicles can reach the land border of Bhutan.

A senior official at the ministry of commerce said since Bangladesh is signing the PTAs with Bhutan and Nepal soon, the bilateral trade with the two countries is expected to rise significantly.

The official said in this case, earnings may rise further from export-import trade if Bangladeshi vehicles can be used for goods transportation.

"We are working on it," he said, adding at the next commerce-secretary level meetings with Bhutan and Nepal, the issue will be discussed how quickly it can be materialised by negotiating with India.

He said joint-efforts may help make India agree to let Bangladesh use its territory for goods transportation.

Another official said Bangladesh and India are set to start a joint study on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) for boosting bilateral trade.

Bangladesh's use of the Indian land for goods transportation may be discussed under this partnership arrangement, he said.

Bangladesh's signing of a PTA with Bhutan is now a matter of time, with the go-ahead signal given by the cabinet last week. At the same time, the negotiation for inking a PTA with Nepal is also progressing.

Distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said Bangladesh's bilateral trade deals with Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are more desirable at this moment, particularly when the World Trade Organisation and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation are not working at the top level.

He said analysis showed that trade impact is much more enhanced when trade-related accords are linked with investment and connectivity.

"So, in order to have a greater impact from the bilateral treaties, we should link investment and connectivity with them," Bhattacharya said.

"There is no alternative to strongly negotiating with India for getting the access to Bhutan and as we are trying to get in Nepal," he said, adding it should have been done much earlier.

"Unfortunately, we did not pursue the issue when the transhipment facility was granted to India," Bhattacharya added.

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