Bangladesh Eyeing ‘Ambitious’ Free Trade Pact With India, Wants Widening Trade Deficit Narrowed

Bangladesh wants India to export a wide range of goods and is keen on concluding an “ambitious” free trade agreement, officially known as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), in order to address the growing trade deficit between both neighbours.

While the negotiations for the CEPA is yet to begin officially, Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi is visiting India to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Piyush Goyal Thursday, mainly with the aim to increase exports from Bangladesh to India, diplomatic sources told ABP Live.

However, the sources said, while New Delhi is keen on starting the talks for having a CEPA with Bangladesh, the negotiations will not begin unless the elections there are over.

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Bangladesh is heading for polls in 2023 in what is seen to be a tightly fought one between Awami League led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the main opposition party – Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) – whose leader Khaleda Zia is facing massive corruption charges.

According to the sources, whichever party comes to power they will seek to boost trade ties with India as Dhaka readies itself to come out of the status of a ‘Least Developed Country’ (LDC) by 2026.

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Besides, Dhaka has raised the issue of rising trade deficit between both countries which it wants to address on a war-footing as the country battles rising food and energy prices and slowing down of growth due to the Covid pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, the sources said.

Munshi, who is well versed with India, is expected to urge Goyal to procure more and more Bangladeshi goods, especially agricultural produce.

Why Dhaka Is Keen On CEPA

India is a close friend and major trading partner of Bangladesh. There is a huge demand for Bangladeshi products in the Indian market, Munshi said in Dhaka earlier this week, according to reports.

“There are opportunities to increase export of local products to India. If bilateral trade is facilitated, export of Bangladeshi goods would increase and the trade gap between the two countries would reduce,” Munshi said in Dhaka during a joint media conference with India’s High Commissioner to Dhaka Pranay K. Verma.

Dhaka is keen on concluding the CEPA with India also because it will throw up more opportunities for them to sign future such deals.

During Prime Minister Hasina’s last visit to India in August this year, both sides vowed to complete talks for the CEPA at the earliest “in time for Bangladesh’s final graduation from LDC status”, according to the joint statement issued after the visit.

India is Bangladesh’s second biggest trading partner after China and its largest export market. Exports from India to Bangladesh reached $16.15 billion in 2021-2022 while imports from there stood at $1.97 billion in the same fiscal.

Bangladesh is learnt to have set a target of achieving of $100 billion worth of merchandise exports by 2026.

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