Bangladesh has proposed to start a new end to end train service between
Siliguri and Dhaka with customs and immigration checks at the starting point on
both sides of the border.
The issue was raised by the
Bangaldesh side during the ongoing trade talks between the two countries which
concluded at Dahka on September 26th.
Bangladesh also pressed for establishment of seamless dual gauge rail
connectivity between western and eastern parts of Bangladesh and India readily
agreed to assist the programme.
The Indian side appreciated the latest moves of the Bangladesh government
in relaxing port restrictions but suggested many more goods could be added to
the list which could be allowed to be exported through land customs stations of
the border. Tripura and and other North eastern states have demanded this
access to Chittagong port.
India also expressed concern over sudden increase in import of edible palm
oil and soya bean oil by Bangladesh and suggested routing third party edible
oil imports for India through Bangladesh ports under SAFTA
A bilateral meeting was held in Dhaka on September 26th between Commerce
Minister of Bangladesh, Tofail Ahmed, and Commerce Minister of India, Suresh
Both Ministers noted the significant progress made in the bilateral
relationship under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime
Minister Narendra Modi. They reiterated their commitment to further strengthen
the bilateral relations on the basis of friendship, trust and understanding for
the mutual benefit of the people of Bangladesh and India.
The two Ministers discussed a number of trades, investment and connectivity
related matters of interest. These include a Comprehensive Economic Partnership
Agreement, Border Haats, improvement of infrastructure and operations of Land
Customs Stations on the Bangladesh - India border, recognition of test
certificates, anti-dumping measures and port restrictions.
Considering the vision of Bangladesh to become a middle income country by
2021 and a developed country by 2041, both Ministers agreed that a
Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) covering goods, services
and investment would provide a sound basis for substantial enhancement of trade
and commercial partnership. They directed their officials to undertake a joint
study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral CEPA.
Both Ministers agreed to expedite the constitution of a Bangladesh - India
CEO Forum for providing policy level inputs relating to trade and investment
issues under different sectors of interest such as jute, textiles, energy,
pharmaceuticals, information technology, etc. The Forum could convene sectoral
sub groups to deliberate on specific issues concerning each sector. Minister
Prabhu invited Bangladesh’s participation in the Partnership Summit, to be
organised by India in January 2019, as a Partner Country. Minister Prabhu also
offered to organize a joint investment summit in India in October - November 2018,
focused on bilateral investments and invited Minister Ahmed to participate in
the summit, along with a business delegation drawn from identified sectors of
interest. Minister Ahmed agreed to consider the visit. Minister Ahmed also
requested that Indian investors be encouraged to utilise the facilities being
offered by the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA).
In the context of a number of new initiatives being taken by both India and
Bangladesh in various sectors, both Ministers agreed to establish a mechanism
such as a joint multi-disciplinary group for sharing of best practices for
Minister Ahmed requested to address the issue of anti-dumping duty levied
on import of jute goods and other products from Bangladesh to India. In response
Suresh Prabhu conveyed that the concerns of the relevant exporters would be
taken into consideration during the investigations. He also suggested that a
meeting between the Jute industry of the two countries could be organized to
find the way forward on resolving the issue. Both sides agreed for early
finalization of MoU under consideration, aimed at capacity building of
Bangladesh officials in issues related to trade remedies. Both sides also
agreed to consider an MoU between Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) and
Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) for capacity building of trade
officials and stakeholders, including joint training in either country.
Both sides agreed to arrange industry-specific interactions among the
respective stakeholders to enhance business to business cooperation and utilize
inherent advantages of both countries towards a larger share of the global
value chains relating to pharmaceuticals, leather, jute and textiles sectors.
Both Ministers agreed to fast-track the completion of six new Border Haats
which are under construction and identification of locations for six additional
Border Haats, including Dalu-Nakugaon in Sherpur district proposed by
Bangladesh in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Government of
Meghalaya by the Indian side. Both Ministers expressed their intention to
inaugurate the first additional Border Haat at the earliest.
Recognizing the importance of Petrapole-Benapole land border trading point,
the two Ministers agreed to remove impediments affecting smooth clearance of
cargo at this location. In this regard, they agreed for a one-time push to
remove congestion of cargo trucks, with effect from 15th October 2018, for a
period of two months. Minister Prabhu also reiterated India’s offer to support
improvement of infrastructure of Land Customs Stations (LCS) in Bangladesh,
adjoining Tripura border.
Minister Ahmed raised the issue relating to recognition by Indian
authorities of test certificates issued by the Bangladesh Standard and Testing
Institution (BSTI). Minister Prabhu assured that expeditious resolution would
be carried out for acceptance of BSTI test certificates for export of cement
and steel products from Bangladesh. On the request of recognition of BSTI test
certificates for 6 additional food products, Minister Prabhu assured that it
would be recognized once BSTI receives the accreditation from NABL or
equivalent institution for these products. Minister Ahmed also raised the issue
of acceptance of BSTI certificates for caustic soda. Minister Prabhu mentioned
that the issue is being examined for expeditious resolution, including issue of
license to Bangladesh exporters, as an interim measure.
Minister Prabhu raised the issue of sudden increase in imports of refined
edible palm and soybean oil from Bangladesh and the possibility of routing of
third country origin oils into India, through Bangladesh under SAFTA. It was
requested that the concerned Certificates of Origin are issued with due
diligence and regularly shared with the Indian authorities, if possible through
online mode. Minister Ahmed mentioned that the Certificates of Origin under
SAFTA are issued carefully after considering the requisite evidence. He,
however, agreed to examine the issue for resolution keeping in view the
interest of bonafide exporters.
Minister Prabhu appreciated the recent relaxation in port restrictions
allowed by Bangladesh but requested that as per issue taken up by Tripura and
other State Governments, more products may be allowed to be exported through
the Land Customs Stations on the border.
Minister Prabhu highlighted that many international tenders issued by
various agencies and Ministries of Government of Bangladesh preclude
participation of Indian companies by restricting the country of origin of goods
or services to be supplied. He requested that this issue may be addressed
expeditiously. Minister Ahmed agreed to have the issue examined by the
concerned authorities for early resolution.
Both Ministers expressed appreciation on the recent developments in the
field of connectivity between the two countries, including rail connectivity.
Noting the need to restore pre-1965 railway connectivity between two countries,
Bangladesh side proposed to start a new end-to-end train service between Dhaka
and Siliguri with customs and immigration checks at the starting points at both
ends. Bangladesh side mentioned the need to establish seamless dual gauge rail
connectivity between western and eastern part of Bangladesh for which Indian
side offered its support to Bangladesh.
The Ministers expressed concern that the global trade and economic
situation is at a critical stage due to the ongoing trade tensions in which
developing countries and LDCs suffer consequential collateral damage. Keeping
this in view, they reiterated their commitment to the rule-based multilateral
trading system that ensures free, fair and open global trade for achieving
sustainable economic growth and development. Recalling the successful WTO Mini
Ministerial Meeting held in New Delhi in March 2018, the Ministers called for
collective action for revitalizing WTO without undermining its core principles
of Special and Differential Treatment, Consensus Building, Inclusiveness and