FTA with 11 countries soon

The government has taken initiative to ink free trade agreement (FTA) with some 11 countries aiming at a smooth and competitive trade market in near future.

Bangladesh must have FTA with other foreign countries as it is going to achieve graduation to a developing country from a least developed one, experts said.

The government should start trade negotiations immediately in order to secure the zero-duty benefit after graduation as the country will lose its tariff benefit with most of the countries after getting developing country status, they added.

The country has not completed a single FTA with other countries.

Sirajul Islam, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), told Bangladesh Post, the Commerce Ministry is beginning trade negotiations with different countries including Nepal and Bhutan.

However, he hopes the country would successfully sign FTAs soon with some countries.

In this context, Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin said we are seriously working this issue as the country is currently in negotiations with 11 countries to sign the preferential trade agreements (PTAs) or FTAs.

On the other hand, a process is under way to sign Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPA) with India, he added.

CEPA not only covers duty, but also investment, logistics, services and other important issues.

An FTA is a deal between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.

However, the country is going to compete in the second review of a UN panel next year for graduation to a developing country from a least developed one as it met all the three criteria.

The latest status report was already been sent on the three eligibility criteria including Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, Human Assets Index (HAI) and Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI) to the UN Committee for Development Policy (CDP) for making assessment.

In 2018, after completing all the three criteria, it got the first recommendation from the CDP for graduating to a developing country.

Although, the country's position in the third criterion fell, yet it's much above the required threshold.

According to the UN's graduation entry, the GNI per capita of a country has to be $1,230 or above.

The country’s GNI per capita is now $1,640, up $368 percent from $1,272 during the last triennial review in 2018.

In terms of the HAI, a country must have a score of 66 or above.

The country has performed well to rising score to 75.3 from 72.8 in 2018.

In the EVI criterion, a country's score has to be below 32.

The country’s score now is 27.3 from 25 in 2018.

If Bangladesh continues to maintain its position in all the three categories for the next three years, the country will achieve the status of a developing country in the UN General Assembly in 2024.

KAS Murshid, director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said, “We have no FTA which is the Potential weakness of the country. If we want to overcome the hurdles, we need bilateral talks to go ahead.”

Economist said many countries have given free duty access for Bangladesh as a least developing country.

Hence, the government should take steps on emergency basis to sign FTA with different countries as the country cannot continue duty free access after getting developing country status by 2024, they mentioned.

Otherwise, the country will face a lot of difficulties and not last in competition with its competitors in the global market, they added.