In the first formal session organized by the Embassy of India on 22 March after Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar took over the office, the ‘Ease of doing business and business opportunities with India’ was discussed. The discussion involved various business companies of Bhutan and other stakeholders.
While the free trade agreement has been adopted for as long as one can remember, there are accounts of situations which suggest that these agreements have no role to play as transportation and getting through customs to export perishable food products into India are often unfavorable and difficult.
Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries’ deputy secretary general, Kesang Wangdi said that the first steps to make it easier for the businesses to operate would be by removing Non-Tariff measures and Non-tariff Barriers and secondly by having a standard food certification authority or by accepting the certification that Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regularity Authority (BAFRA) gives.
This concern comes after few experiences faced by the Bhutan’s export trucks. “The trucks carrying food products well certified by the BAFRA gets halted along the route in the customs offices because it [according to customs officials] needs to be certified by the Food Safety and Standards Authority ofIndia (FSSAI) which takes a maximum of one week.” Kesang Wangdi said adding that this could lead to a major loss to the manufacturing industries.
Agreeing to the context, ex-President of BCCI Ugen Tsechup Dorji said that there has been a recent incident of trucks carrying boulders to Bangladesh being stranded at Changrabandha gate because it has only one Weigh Bridge.
Other bottlenecks identified are the requirement of a different set of documents and the long procedures to get them while exporting via air transportation. “This could be a lack of understanding about the free trade because the same goods are transported en-route in a comparatively easier manner” said Ugen Tsechup Dorji.
Governor of Royal Monetary Authority, Dasho Penjo said that a large volume of trade can only happen if there is a stable exchange rate.
Addressing these issues, the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, Jaideep Sarkar said that the a necessary and a more detailed discussions will be held between the Indian Embassy and BCCI which would be raised to the Government of India for further scrutiny.