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A joint meeting of the National Board of Revenue (NBR), freight forwarders and cargo agents in Dhaka yesterday reached a decision on formulating freight forwarding rules in order to bring discipline to the export-import trade and ensure tariffs from the sector.

All the concerned agencies including representatives from International Freight Forwarders Association of Bangladesh (IFFAB), Association of Cargo Agents Bangladesh (ACAB), Chittagong Port Authority and Customs representatives attended the meeting at the NBR auditorium.

As per the understanding reached at the meeting, the freight forwarders will withdraw their writ petitions against the statutory regulatory order (SRO) issued by the NBR in 2006 to ensure implementation of a licensing system for the freight forwarders.

All the freight forwarders have to pay Tk 5,000 non-refundable application fees to get license and then they are to pay Tk 50,000 as license fee and Tk 10,000 renewal fees biennially.

Besides, the freight forwarders will provide a Tk 3 lakh bank guarantee, which would be forfeited if they violate their licensing conditions.

The joint meeting also decided that the foreign freight forwarders operating in Bangladesh shall have to invest US$ 5 lakh in the country to set up business and must get permission from the Board of Investment.

According to the understating, a joint venture company has to invest minimum US$ 1 lakh here and the foreign company cannot own more 49 percent of that venture.

The NBR will prepare a minute of what was agreed among the parties and the minute will be sent to the finance ministry for its approval Monday.

Following the ministry's approval, the minute will be sent to the Law Commission for vetting. If the commission okays it, then the draft law will be distributed among the freight forwarders and cargo agents.

"We will issue the SRO when the freight forwarders withdraw their writ petitions," Badiur Rahman, chairman, NBR said, emphasizing immediate enforcement of such rules to have more tariffs from the sector.

At present, the sector is plagued by financial indiscipline making it easy to use as a cover for illegal transactions.

Under the new proposals, the government aims to ensure that money earned by freight forwarders abroad is returned to Bangladesh.

NBR Sources said due to lack of licensing, freight forwarders had been able to operate without any legal obligation or government control.

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