Dhaka, Bangkok to conduct feasibility study on FTA

Dhaka,  Wed,  20 September 2017
Published : 11 Aug 2017, 00:53:26

Dhaka, Bangkok to conduct feasibility study on FTA

Sign MoU to import 1.0m tonnes of rice
FE Report

Bangladesh and Thailand will conduct a joint feasibility study on signing the proposed bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between the countries for doubling two-way trade to US$ 2.0 billion in next five years.

The agreement in this connection came, among others, during the ministerial meeting of Joint Trade Committee (JTC) of Bangladesh and Thailand at a city hotel on Thursday.

Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and his Thai counterpart Apiradi Tantraporn led the respective side.

Besides, Bangladesh and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to import 1.0 million tonnes of rice from Thailand in next five years.

Food Minister Qamrul Islam and the Thai commerce minister signed the MoU on behalf of the respective government.

The 4th JTC meeting, held after an intervention of four years, was represented by senior-level government officials and private sector high-ups of both the countries.

The JTC meeting began on Wednesday with senior-level officials, and concluded on Thursday with minister-level discussion. In a joint briefing after the two-day meeting, the commerce ministers of Bangladesh and Thailand shared the consensus, reached by both sides.

They said the two countries will work together in a number of issues, including development of agriculture and fishery sectors. Both sides also agreed to engage private sector of their respective countries more for meeting the target of doubling trade in five years, he added.

During discussions Thailand showed interest in bilateral FTA, but Tofail Ahmed said Bangladesh requested the country to provide duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) facility for 36 Bangladeshi products until the FTA is signed.

"We seek duty-free facility for 36 products on priority basis to help reduce the huge trade imbalance that exists between the countries for meeting the trade doubling target."

He told the journalists that Bangladesh's export volume to Thailand is only $ 36 million.

Both Bangladesh and Thailand are the 3rd largest bilateral partners in the respective regional forum of south-east Asian and south Asian nations. The two-way trade volume was recorded $ 995 million with the Thai share of $ 960 million.

According to the statistics of Bangladesh Embassy in Thailand, growth of Bangladesh trade to the country increased 38 per cent in last one year, which had been almost stagnant since 2012.

Thailand exports mainly poly-raising, clinkers, machineries, cosmetics, toiletry and food items to Bangladesh. The country, however, lost the market of Jute in Thailand mainly due to imposition of duty on it. In recent years, Bangladesh started exporting ready-made garment and pharmaceutical products there.

Though Thailand provides DFQF access to nearly 5,000 products of Bangladesh, the commerce minister said Bangladesh placed a new list of 36 products, including RMG, as it can hardly get any benefit from the existing list.

Tofail Ahmed said Bangladesh has lost the jute export market in Thailand due to competition with India, which enjoys FTA benefit with the country. Five per cent duty is imposed on Bangladeshi jute in absence of FTA, he added.

He also said Bangladesh enjoys duty-free facility as a least developed country (LDC), and can get the benefit from Thailand as a developed country, according to World Trade Organisation.

Both sides also agreed to sign MoU soon on issuance of common certification of products.

The Thai commerce minister told the media that Thai entrepreneurs want to increase their investment in Bangladesh apart from working to meet the trade doubling target.

"We've proposed strategic partnership to strengthen Bangladesh-Thailand relationship," she added. She said Thailand has scopes to invest in Bangladesh's light-engineering and handcraft sectors, as the latter has potentials in these sectors.

The Thai minister also said she will discuss about signing a coastal shipping agreement, proposed by Bangladesh, with her country's ministry concerned, adding that her government will review the list of DFQF products as per the request of Bangladesh.

Both sides also agreed to hold the 5th JTC in 2018 in Thailand.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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