Vol. 5 Num 674 Sat. April 22, 2006  
Front Page

Dhaka again declines Delhi's transit proposal
Joint task force to examine tariff barriers

Bangladesh yesterday reiterated its opposition to the Indian proposal for transit through it as the trade talks between the two countries in Dhaka ended on a gloomy note.

Bangladesh experts said if the country accepts the transit proposal, in the long run it will lose advantage in trade with the next-door neighbour.

Visiting Indian State Minister for Commerce Jairam Ramesh raised the transit issue at the bilateral trade meeting.

Meeting sources said India proposed that Bangladesh open up all its land, water and air routes for transport of goods to its [India] northeastern seven sister states. But Bangladesh experts did not agree with the proposal, arguing that it would hamper the existing trade relations between the countries.

"India wants transit basically to have an immediate boost in trade in its north-eastern part while in the course of time, to give facilities to the investors keen to invest in Bangladesh," said a Bangladesh official.

The official said as Bangladesh declined to open its routes, the Indian side remained silent and eventually the issue dropped from the discussion.

Dhaka also opposed the proposal to allow containers from different parts of India.

Commerce Minster Altaf Hossain Choudhury, Adviser to the Commerce Ministry Barkat Ullah Bulu, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Veena Sikri, and high officials from both the sides were present at the meeting.

The meeting discussed some crucial issues that hamper trade between the two countries such as non-tariff and para-tariff barriers, customs procedure, banking facilities, and port infrastructure.

The two sides decided that the Bangladesh-India joint task force will examine the prevailing non-tariff and para-tariff barriers and accordingly make a list in the shortest possible time.

Commerce ministers of the two countries will meet in Benapole and Petropole landport on June 19 and 21 this year to review the finds of the task force.

"We will meet soon to resolve the issue of tariff and non-tariff barriers in India-Bangladesh trade," said Jairam Ramesh at a joint press briefing after the meeting.

He however observed that bureaucratic and political tangles in both the countries contribute to the imposition of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers.

Ramesh also noted that Indian investment to Bangladesh will be ensured.

About Tata's potential investment in Bangladesh, he said, "India does not talk about such issues in bilateral trade talks. The Indian government however supports Tata in its endeavour to invest in Bangladesh."

He said Tata's getting the opportunity to invest in Bangladesh would mean benefits at first for Bangladesh, then for India and thirdly, for the Indian industrial conglomerate.

In his speech, the Bangladesh commerce minister said, "We will detect the problems remaining in trade between Bangladesh and India and then make a list of those."

"Thereafter, we will work to overcome the obstacles," he added.

Most of the local experts who attended the meeting expressed pessimism about the bilateral talks. They said the problems are not new, Bangladeshi exporters have been suffering from these problems for the last few years. But most of the times, the assurances fall flat.

Although Indian products enter the Bangladesh market with ease, India continues to impose non-tariff and para-tariff barriers one after another on Bangladeshi exports, they said.

For example, they said, when Bangladesh exporters intend to export local Jamdani saree, the Indian customs on the border send those to Lakhani testing lab to examine the quality of the products.

"We are not hopeful about the outcome of the bilateral meeting because such discussions took place in the past as well, but to no avail," said an official.

Meanwhile, sources said India did not agree to Dhaka's proposal for allowing Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals into its market.

According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) statistics, Bangladesh exported goods worth $144.20 million to India while Indian exports to Bangladesh amounted to $2007.10 million in fiscal year 2004-05. In the same year, the trade deficit between the countries stood at $1,862.90 million. It reached $714.09 million in the first six months of the current fiscal.

UNB adds: The Maldives at bilateral trade talks in Dhaka yesterday expressed keen interest to import manpower as well as pharmaceuticals and other products from Bangladesh.

"We would like to invite the private sector of Bangladesh to assess the business potential in Maldives," Mohamed Jaleel, Maldivan minister of economic development and trade, said after the meeting at Sonargaon Hotel.

He and his delegation are now visiting the country for the first Safta ministerial meet.

Indian Sate Minister for Commerce Jairam Ramesh (right) speaks at a press briefing after a Dhaka-Delhi bilateral meeting in the capital yesterday as Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury (centre) and Commerce Adviser Barkatullah Bulu look on. PHOTO: STAR