Bhutan-Bangladesh commerce secretary level meeting discussed transportation, food standards, FDI and duty exemptions

With the main objective to exchange ideas and explore new areas of cooperation to promote trade and commerce, the two day Bhutan-Bangladesh commerce secretary level meeting was held on Tuesday and Wednesday in the capital this week.

The Bangladeshi delegation was led by Md. Mofizul Islam, Secretary, Ministry of Commerce, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and Bhutanese delegation was led by Dasho Yeshi Wangdi, Secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

The two-day meeting saw review of the three Memorandum of Understandings signed during Prime Minister of People›s Republic of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Bhutan on April, 2017 and also reviewed on the decisions taken during the last commerce secretary level meeting and issues pertaining to trade, transit, investment and tourism which will benefit both the countries in achieving economic stability.

“One of the MoUs signed was on the use of inland water transport routes for transit and bilateral trade between the two countries. Inland water routes between the two countries can be used to access and explore trade between Bhutan and Bangladesh. Bhutanese traders can transport goods in bulk through means of container shipment which will be very cost effective unlike the current practice where goods are transported through trucks, which is costly and slow,” said Dasho Yeshi Wangdi.

The secretary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that in order for the MoUs to be operational, they need to come up with detailed Standard Operating Procedures and the meeting, he said was also to fast track the finalization of MoUs. “Once this MoU is operational, transportation of goods and services between the two countries will be easier and Bhutan can also use their port to export goods to third countries,” said the Secretary.

The other MoU was between Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh and Bhutan Food Regulatory Authority and standards bureau of the two countries so that the two countries can promote mutual recognition on certification of the goods which will help in easing the trade. For this, the two countries have also agreed to promote and strengthen technical and institutional collaboration.

The two-day meeting also discussed a way forward to finalize transit agreement and related draft protocols to the transit agreement and it was resolved that the agreement will be presented during Lyonchhen (Dr.) Lotay Tshering’s visit to Bangladesh in April this year.

Dasho Yeshi Wangdi said that discussions to facilitate Foreign Direct Investment between the two countries have also been raised. “Since Bhutan is in the midst of completing the construction of four industrial parks and some are ready to be leased, we invited private entities from Bangladesh to check out spaces at the industrial parks to attract more FDI.”

The Secretary said that currently, 90 items imported from Bangladesh to Bhutan have been granted duty exemptions and 18 varieties of items exported from Bhutan to Bangladesh have been granted customs duty exemptions.

“Bhutan has been pursuing additional duty exemption on 16 items for export to Bangladesh but Bangladesh is a member of World Trade Organization and there are some limitations because of that. Therefore, as a way forward we have decided to form a joint working group to examine the duty exemptions and study and review the items that would be eligible for duty exemptions,” said Dasho Yeshi Wangdi.

The Bilateral Trade Agreement between Bhutan and Bangladesh was initially signed in 1980. In 2017, total trade value between the two countries touched Nu 3,815.46 mn which stood at Nu 2,616.13 mn in 2016. Bangladesh has been recorded as the second largest trading partner as well as the second largest export market for Bhutan.

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