Talha Bin Habib
The upcoming secretary-level meeting between Bangladesh and Bhutan is likely to finalise the draft agreement on transit between the two South Asian economies, a senior trade official said.
The official said an inter-ministerial meeting will be held Sunday on how to push the issue forward. The high-level meeting between Bangladesh and Bhutan will be held on March 20 and 21 at the ministry of commerce (MoC).
Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed will lead the Bangladeshi delegation while the 10-member Bhutanese team will be led by Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs of Dasho Sonam Tshering.
Earlier Bangladesh had sent the draft recommendations on transit to Bhutan through the ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA) for their approval.
Bangladesh will try its best to finalise the transit deal that would definitely buttress bilateral trade and investment between the two countries.
Officials expect the Bhutanese delegation to give its green signal in finalising the transit deal with Bangladesh during the meeting.
Apart from the transit deal, the top officials of the two countries will also discuss other issues that will help ensure mutual benefits of both the countries, ministry sources said.
Bangladesh and Bhutan had signed a temporary transit deal in 1980, which expired in 2000. The government of Bhutan has requested its Bangladeshi counterpart to renew the deal.
Bhutan is interested to use seaports and airports in Bangladesh along with five additional land customs (LC) stations under the proposed protocol on transit.
Bhutan and Bangladesh's export/import currently takes place through two land customs (LC) stations-Burimari which is approximately 400 kms away from the south-eastern town of Samdrup Jongkhar, and Tamabil, a route which passes through the Indian states of Assam and Meghalaya.
At present, Bhutan enjoys duty free market access of 18 products to Bangladesh.
The volume of trade between Bhutan and Bangladesh during the fiscal year (FY) 2010-2011 was worth US$ 22.12 million. Bhutan exported goods worth $ 19 million, while Bangladesh exported only $ 3.12 million worth of goods to Bhutan during the year.
"We will discuss the matter (transit) at the upcoming meeting. We are on the right track," Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed told the FE.