- Dec 31, 2010
BD bracing for talks with India on CEPARezaul Karim
Mar 29, 2023 11:40 PM
Mar 29, 2023 11:42 PM
Bangladesh is crafting strategies to start negotiations with India on the long-awaited proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), sources said.
To this end, commerce ministry has sought opinions on trade in goods/services and investment on the CEPA from more than 58 state agencies and trade bodies to walk the talk.
According to the sources, Bangladesh is set to commence negotiations to strike the deal with its second-largest trade partner to increase trade and investment.
New Delhi has recently formed a committee in this connection. It will soon inform Bangladesh of beginning the negotiations, an official said.
In the December 2022 Indo-Bangla commerce minister-level meeting, Delhi sought some time for its internal preparation regarding the issue.
As an LDC, Bangladesh has duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access of all but 25 tobacco and alcohol products to India under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) and Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA) deals.
But Bangladesh will lose the DFQF facility after 2026 as it elevates to a developing country status.
Currently, Bangladesh is the largest Indian line of credit (LoC) recipient. Both countries exchange bilateral trade, treatment, education, tourism and professional services.
On the CEPA, commerce ministry has already formed two committees-an advisory committee (AC), led by commerce minister Tipu Munshi, and an 11-member trade negotiations committee (TNC).
According to the Regional Trade Agreement (RTA) Policy-2022, the TNC of Bangladesh would carry forward the negotiations in cooperation with the Indian TNC and periodically report to the competent authorities.
On the other hand, the AC will closely monitor the overall activity of the TNCs and provide necessary suggestions in case any situation arises during the negotiations.
Bangladesh and Indian premiers in a joint statement last September instructed the officials concerned to start negotiations within 2022.
Following the directives, the MoC in September 2022 requested its Indian counterpart to start the negotiations as early as possible, sources said here.
"We've almost done internal procedures to start the talks," a senior commerce official told the FE.
"We've sought sectoral opinions on trade in goods, services and investment from around 60 stakeholders, including the PMO, ministries/divisions, NBR, central bank, FBCCI and BGMEA on the proposed CEPA shortly."
The CEPA will be a very big pact. Bangladesh had no practical knowledge to handle such a deal in the past, according to the official.
The CEPA is considered an advanced level of the free-trade agreement (FTA) that India signed with some trading partners like South Korea and the UAE while discussing the same with several other countries.
On the other hand, Bangladesh has only signed its maiden preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Bhutan.
It has not signed any bilateral FTA so far, although it is a member of a number of multilateral FTA deals.
Both countries first discussed the possibility of signing a CEPA in 2018 at the commerce secretary-level meeting for increasing bilateral trade and strengthening overall cooperation.
In the same year, their trade ministers agreed to conduct a joint feasibility study on signing the pact.
Again, both PMs instructed to conduct a joint study in the shortest possible time during a meeting between them in Dhaka on 27 March 2021.