Joint study on India-Bangladesh FTA to be finalised soon

India and Bangladesh have decided to finalise a joint study on the feasibility of a proposed bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) at the earliest.

The two sides also took a number of decisions to improve connectivity and movement of goods, including re-opening `border haats’ closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, at the Commerce Secretary level meeting in New Delhi on Friday, according to an official release issued by the Commerce & Industry Ministry on Saturday.

“Both sides held extensive discussions on a variety of issues of mutual interest, including development of railway infrastructure, port infrastructure, joint study on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), border haats, regional connectivity through multi-modal transportation, harmonisation of standards, mutual recognition agreements,” the release stated.

CEPA Proposal

Commerce Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam and Bangladesh’s Senior Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh discussed early finalisation of the joint study on the proposed CEPA that could help Bangladesh maintain its trade privileges once it graduates out of the least developed country (LDC) status. It is also expected to help India increase its exports as well as investments in the neighbouring country.

Bangladesh is the sixth largest trade partner of India and there has been significant growth in the bilateral trade between the two countries in recent years. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, bilateral trade grew at 14 per cent to $10.78 billion in 2021 from $9.46 billion in 2019, according to government figures.

The two officials also discussed improving regional connectivity by strengthening multi-modal transport between the countries.

Project Pipeline

They took note of progress in various projects for facilitation of trade between India-Bangladesh through railways. This includes approval of a Detailed Project Proposal (DPP) for developing container handling facility at Sirajganj Bazar, construction of a 900 metre new siding line at Benapole for running freight trains between India and Bangladesh, the construction of loading and unloading platform completed at Darshana for allowing import of all commodities from India by rail via Darsana and approval of a DPP for development of rail and road based ICD at Ishwardi.

There was also consensus over the use of returning empty railway wagons/containers by Bangladesh that would reduce overall logistics cost of India’s exports to Bangladesh, the release said.

Border haats, that were closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, would be re-opened shortly while 24×7 operationalization of Petrapole-Benapole Integrated Check Post (ICP) is to be implemented soon. (Business Line)