Vast swathes of duty-free mkt facilities yet untapped

BD lacks 'proactive drive' for trade expansion

REZAUL KARIM | Saturday, 15 January 2022

Bangladesh's products have so far got duty-free market access to only 38 countries, leaving vast swathes of potential untapped, trade officials say.
The deficiency is attributed to a lack of proactive measures by the authorities concerned and failure to widen the export basket with both traditional and non-traditional products and services.
Of the countries, 28 member-states of the European Union (EU) are giving duty-free market facilities for Bangladeshi products, they add.
Besides, Japan, Chili, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India and China are providing such marketing facilities.
Realizing the urgency, the government is trying to secure duty-free market access to a number of countries after LDC graduation, says a commerce ministry official.
"Many countries want to build business relations with us. But we cannot tap the potential for a lack of proactive drive," he adds.
Currently, Bangladesh has achieved duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access from the developed and advanced developing countries as member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that is called generalized system of preference (GSP) facility.
Sectors that stand to benefit from the access include garments, textile fabrics, yarns, and leather, industry-insiders told the FE.
Developed and emerging economies could play a crucial role in helping developing countries like Bangladesh to improve their trade performance by according duty-free market access, they say. "The duty-free market access will help us accelerate trade, generate more employment and spur growth," another official says.
He estimated that Bangladesh's exports would rise by U$6.0 billion a year if countries in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia offer duty-free access.
Recently, China decided to grant duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) access to 98 per cent of Bangladeshi products, which may help boost exports while lowering the ballooning bilateral trade imbalance, officials said.
In July 2020, the world's second-largest economy granted duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) access to a slew of 8,556 Bangladeshi products (97 per cent).
Commerce ministry sources say only India has given duty-and quota- free market access to Bangladesh's all products, bar 25 tobacco and drug items, under the umbrella of trade deal SAFTA of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), according to the commerce ministry.
Bangladeshi products that are getting free market access include readymade garments, knitwear items, frozen shrimp, ceramics, plastic products, leather and jute products, home textiles, bicycles and pharmaceuticals, the official said.
Exporters get various facilities to participate in international trade fairs, strengthening the country's export market, he says, adding that the government has sent trade delegations to different countries in Africa and Latin America to explore market.
The government has also beefed up efforts to set up Joint Economic Commission and sign bilateral trade deals with different countries to boost exports from Bangladesh.
Currently, Bangladesh is sincerely working to sign FTA with different developed countries as the countries will not provide duty-free facility after its graduation from LDC status in 2026.

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