A new window of opportunity has opened up for Bangladesh with Delhi agreeing to give Dhaka free transit to export its goods to third countries using Indian ports and infrastructure, during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to the next-door neighbour.
Experts, however, say product diversification is a must to exploit the opportunity.
According to traders and experts, exports of both the countries could increase manifold if the collaboration of the two countries works properly.
Renowned economist Ahsan H. Mansoor, who is the executive director of Policy Research Institute (PRI), said export basket must be diversified and importance given to tourism services as well to reap the full benefits of transit.
Pran Group Managing Director Eleash Mridha said, “if India provides transit facilities, we will have more opportunities in trade.”
Regarding the tax-free transit facility, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Faruque Hassan said, “This facility will strengthen the export to India and other countries. And port congestion will ease.”
According to the data of the World Bank, last year Nepal imported goods and services worth USD 200 crore, most of which were supplied by India and China, while Bangladesh accounted for a little over 5 percent of that country’s imports.
On the other hand, Bangladesh’s share in Bhutan's import of about 690 million dollars is about one and a half percent.
Bangladesh imports products like clinker, stone, dry food and spices from Nepal and Bhutan and exports food, readymade garments, electronics products, etc to the two neighbours.
India, China, Vietnam already have a huge market in Nepal and Bhutan. Competing with such big players to get a space there will be challenging for Bangladesh. As both countries (Nepalese and Bhutanese) students come to Bangladesh for higher studies, introducing Bangladesh tourism attraction through them can be a good point.
In this regard, economist Ahsan H. Mansoor said that we have Sundarbans (largest mangrove forest) and Cox’s Bazar (longest unbroken sea beach) besides other tourism attractions. Apart from this religious tourism can play a vital role in this regard.
Bangladesh is also optimistic about the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India. It is to be noted that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have instructed the concerned officials to start negotiations for signing the CEPA. Bangladesh will benefit through the CEPA agreement.
In this regard, the BGMEA president said, “We have put importance on the economic partnership to minimise trade gap between the two countries”.