Experts for signing FTA with China, exploiting DFQF access potentials

Speakers at a virtual discussion on Wednesday put utmost importance on signing a comprehensive bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China as it would have a positive impact on Bangladesh's exports to that market and also to take full advantage of duty free quota free (DFQF) access of Bangladeshi products to Chinese market.

They came up with such view at a BCCCI-ERF Virtual Discussion on “Bangladesh-China Economic and Trade Relations in the aftermath of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic”  organized jointly by Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) and Bangladesh China Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BCCCI).

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi attended the event as the chief guest while Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka Li Jiming, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Md. Sirazul Islam, Bangladesh Ambassador to China, Mahbub Uz Zaman joined it as the special guests.

Eminent Trade Economist Dr. Mohammad Abdur Razzaque presented the keynote paper. ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy and Joint Secretary General BCCCI, Al Mamun Mridha delivered welcome remarks.

 BCCCI President Gazi Golam Murtoza chaired the event while ERF General Secretary, S M Rashidul Islam moderated the function. Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said, "Although some progress have been made for signing an FTA with China, but still we need to put a lot of efforts to conclude the negotiation and materialize the prospect of the FTA. "

He said that the trade balance of between the two countries is now heavily in favour of China as out of around $12.09 billion bilateral trade in FY20, Bangladesh's export to China only accounted for $0.60 billion while imports from China totaled a mammoth $11.49 billion.

Tipu said as part of its unilateral market access schemes for LDCs, China has allowed duty-free access to Bangladesh for 97 per cent of its tariff lines which became effective from July 1, 2020. Under this initiative, 8,256 Bangladeshi products enjoy zero tariff facility for exports in this market. 

Touching upon the vital COVID-19 vaccine issue, Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka Li Jiming said that despite the huge domestic demand, China has tried its best to supply vaccines to Bangladesh as Dhaka has already received some 5,00,000 doses of vaccines from Beijing as gift. The Chinese Ambassador said a "very pragmatic" discussion is going on procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses from China to meet Bangladesh's needs.

Turning to the issue of signing FTA, he said that it high time to really consider an FTA combined with an Investment deal between China and Bangladesh and this poses a huge potential for Bangladesh to boost its exports to China. In response, China also provided even more medical supplies to Bangladesh during the pandemic situation, he added.

BIDA Executive Chairman Md Sirazul Islam said that the Authority would facilitate and expedite Investment from Chinese investors. "We want to see more FDI from China. BIDA is always ready to support Investment promotion and in policy advocacy,"

In his power-point presentation, Dr Razzaque said by 2050, China would be one thirds of the global economy in terms of purchasing power parity and by that time the imports of China would increase further where lies a huge potentiality for Bangladesh.