Political Will Needed To Boost Bangladesh-India Trade
Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Political will is the key to increasing trade between India and Bangladesh, commerce minister Faruq Khan said at the launch of a conference between business leaders of the two countries Monday.

The trade gap of $3.016 billion in 2007-08 fiscal year is heavily tilted against Bangladesh.

Bangladesh's exports to India stood at only $358.08 million against imports from the neighbouring country worth a massive $3.375 billion, according to figures obtained from the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).

A 48-member delegation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) led by its vice president Harsh C Mariwala is now in the country on a three-day visit.

FBCCI, the country's apex trade body, organised the daylong conference on 'Bangladesh-India Economic Relations' at the city's Sonargaon Hotel on Monday.

Faruq Khan, inaugurating the conference, said the problem in business relations between the two countries lies with the governments.

"Politics in this part of the world has always been confrontational."

He said problems like enclaves, border and tariff issues can be resolved if there is "political will".

The minister complained that politicians have used trade as a tool of politics rather than development.

"It's about time that politicians understand the importance of trade."

He urged the business community of the two countries to put pressure on the governments to resolve the issues hindering more trade.

Khan also unveiled a status paper on Bangladesh-India trade relations prepared by FICCI.

FBCCI president Annisul Huq in his welcome address said that trade and cooperation within the region has a long way to go.

"After more than two decades intra-SAARC exports are still a mere 5 percent of the total exports of the region".

"We need to have our governments to stand by us...endorse our vision; assure continuity of policies irrespective of the changes in governments," he said.

He stressed the need for a significant cut to the "apparently small" non-tariff barriers that bar growth opportunities.

On another crucial issue, Huq said that long term multiple-entry visas should be easily available for both countries' citizens.

The FBCCI president also complained.

He mentioned bureaucratic hassles by Indian customs and the days-long wait for Bangladeshi goods at land ports awaiting test certificates from Indian authorities.

"I am sure complains against the Bangladesh side would not be less."

FICCI vice president Harsh Mariwala said the India-Bangladesh trade gap jumped from $1 billion in 2001-02 to more than $ 3 billion in 2007-08.

The trade deficit between the countries has risen rapidly in recent years and has been a cause of anxiety, he added.

He spoke of strengthening infrastructure facilities at Petrapole and Benapole land ports, and said opening up of Chittagong port for Indian cargo would act as a huge multiplier for bilateral trade.

The head of the FICCI delegation put forward a ten point agenda which he hoped would double bilateral trade by 2011.

His suggestions included, cutting tariff levels on both sides, creating transit facilities, a treaty on rail link for cross border container movements, setting up food testing facilities at borders and more entry points for quarantine checks.

Indian high commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty said that India is conscious that more needs to be done by governments of both countries to address the trade imbalance and "perceived" non-tariff barriers.

Responding to the much-raised issue of visa hassles, he said security was a major issue for his government.

"Our concern about illegal migration cannot be brushed aside."

The Indian envoy alleged that about 25,000 Bangladeshis do not return after entering India every year while the unrecorded entrants are many more.

Amit Mittra, the secretary general of FICCI said Indian investment would lead rise in Bangladeshi exports to India.

"That is one way correcting trade imbalance," said the top executive of FICCI adding that a political economic vision for the next ten years for the two countries is most important to move forward.

Source: bdnews24.com

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