Bangladesh is expecting to achieve a major breakthrough in the free-trade negotiation with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) scheduled to be held in Dhaka late this month.
Signing a free-trade agreement (FTA) will top the agenda of the second meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) of Bangladesh and the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), officials said.
The EAEU bloc comprises five Eastern European countries - Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan - and has over US$1.5 billion annual trade with Bangladesh.
Officials at the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), Bangladesh think the trade would increase manifold if a free-trade pact is signed with the bloc.
"At the first JWG meeting, the EEC had said it needs concurrence of member states to start the FTA negotiation," a senior official said on Friday, adding that since they are now coming to Dhaka, "we assume that they already have received the concurrence".
He said the meeting may take place on March 27-28 when the EEC may inform Dhaka about the development on receiving the concurrence. "We'll then decide the procedure on how to proceed towards our goal."
Preferring not to be named, he said: "Yes, the main target is signing a FTA."
Officials said Bangladesh and the EEC signed a memorandum of cooperation in Moscow in May 2019 aiming to take forward bilateral trade. Later, the JWG was formed to enhance trade and economic cooperation in 19 sectors.
The first meeting of the group was held in November 2021 in Moscow, with the Bangladesh side led by commerce ministry additional secretary Noor Md Mahbubul Haq while the EEC side was headed by its board member Sergey Glaziev.
In the meeting, the Bangladesh side expressed the interest to sign a FTA with the EAEU and the EEC invited a formal proposal in this regard.
Later in January 2022, Bangladesh sent a proposal to the EEC so that it can seek concurrence of its member states.
Bangladesh Ambassador to the Russian Federation Kamrul Ahsan in a recent letter to the MoC informed that a delegation, led by Sergey Glazev, Member of the Board of EEC, will visit Bangladesh for holding the second meeting of the JWG.
He also wrote that Mikhail Myasnikovich, chairman of the EEC, and Sergey Glazev told him few month back that "the EEC should have been more actively engaged with one of the fastest growing economies of the world like Bangladesh and was very much willing to hold the second round of JWG meeting in a very short time."
"They also expressed their keen interest to have a comprehensive dialogue during the proposed JWG meeting in order to ensure some positive outcome," wrote Mr Ahsan.
The ambassador noted that some of the countries like Bangladesh that export identical products to the EEC countries have either signed an FTA with the EAEU or are negotiating for a FTA.
"The earlier we start the FTA negotiations with the EEC, the better it is for the future of Bangladesh's trade with this trading bloc," he wrote.
According to another commerce ministry official, Bangladesh already conducted a feasibility study and found that signing a FTA with the EAEU may bring positive results for boosting export and also attracting investment from the EEC member states.
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