Dhaka-Delhi economic partnership talks begin Dec 22-23

Shining BD Desk || Shining BD

Published: 12/19/2022 5:52:16 AM

Commerce Ministers of Bangladesh and India will start primary talks on the much awaited Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CEPA) in New Delhi on December 22-23.

The discussion is a follow up to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India last September.

Bangladeshi Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi will travel to New Delhi on December 21 at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in their last bilateral meeting directed both the ministries to start negotiations on CEPA in December so that it can be completed in the time Bangladesh graduates to developing nation from the status of least developed nation.

The last bilateral meeting between the two Commerce Ministers was held in 2019.

According to an Indian official familiar with this development, both countries have completed a Joint Feasibility Study and it has been approved in principle by their respective prime ministers. The CEPA pact, when signed, will be the first of its kind that Dhaka has with any large country in Asia.

Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and India is the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh in Asia. Despite the disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, bilateral trade grew by almost 44 percent from US$ 10.78 billion in FY 2020-21 to US$ 18.14 billion in FY 2021-22. India is also Bangladesh’s largest export destination in Asia.

During the Bangladesh trade minister's visit, Dhaka's focus will also be on getting more essential items like wheat from India. Amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict, commodity prices have increased globally and New Delhi is reaching its neighbours with supplies.

To help countries fight against price hikes and shortage of foodstuffs, India has exported more than 1.8 million tonnes of wheat to countries in need, including Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, and Yemen.

Sources in the Bangladesh mission said Dhaka will raise the issue of anti-dumping duties on Bangladesh's jute and jute-made products. India had imposed an anti-dumping duty on Bangladesh's jute in January 2017 which has been extended till December 31 this year.

During the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, India offered free transit via its territory to Bangladesh for exporting its products to third countries through specified land customs stations, airports and seaports. New Delhi has invited Bangladesh business community for using its port infrastructure for transshipments to third countries. Finalisation of free transit from Bangladesh to Nepal and Bhutan will also figure in the bilateral discussion.

Bangladesh also wants rail connectivity with Bhutan through the newly-inaugurated Chilahati-Haldibari route. India is discussing this issue with Bhutan and the latest development on this issue will be informed to Bangladesh Commerce Minister, Indian official claims. Some port restrictions in this route which may be resolved in this meeting.

Upgradation of infrastructure and facilities at the land customs stations will be a major talking point and India wants at least one major land port without port restrictions or negative list restrictions on the border with northeastern states of India for easier market access starting with Akhaura-Agartala ICP which may start end of next year. An official said Dhaka's long pending demand for a second freight gate at the Petrapole-Benapole ICP would soon be realized.



Source: Daily Sun 

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