Duty-free access to India
Businesses not getting benefits due to non-tariff barriers: FBCCIStaff Correspondent
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Thursday said that Bangladeshi exporters could not get the benefit of duty-free access to India because of continued para-tariff and non-tariff barriers.
Urging India to remove all those para-tariff and non-tariff barriers to help boost Bangladesh’s exports to that country, leaders of the apex chamber body also called upon the Indian authorities to provide five-year multiple visas to Bangladesh businessmen to strengthen economic and trade relationship.
‘Exporters cannot enjoy the advantages of duty free access of Bangladeshi products to Indian market due to such barriers like testing and labeling,’ said FBCCI president AK Azad at a discussion meeting at its conference room with Pankaj Saran, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh.
Almost all Bangladeshi products, without some exception, are enjoying duty-free access to Indian market as the Indian government recently opened its entire market to Bangladeshi products, he said.
If non-tariff barriers are not removed, the trade gap that already reached the highest peak will not be reduced, he added.
He demanded a five-year term multiple visas for Bangladeshi businessmen to visit India and special visa counter and visa arrangement for them even on holidays.
Responding to the demand, Pankaj Saran said that the bona-fide businessmen should normally get multiple entry visas and India will promote it for Bangladeshi businessmen.
In the meantime, both countries agreed, at the last commerce secretary level meeting in March, that reputed businessmen should normally be granted long-term multiple entry visas.
‘I assure that you will see improvement in multiple visa issue in the months ahead,’ he said.
AK Azad proposed providing multiple entry visas to businessmen on the recommendation of the FBCCI.
Mentioning huge trade gap, Azad said that if para-tariff and non-tariff barriers are removed, Bangladesh’s exports to India will exceed to $ 10 billion from current $512 million annually against the import of $4.5 billion.
For expanding trade between the two countries, he demanded for infrastructure development at the land customs stations including constructing roads and establishing warehouse facilities.
In the absence of warehouse, exported goods remained unloaded in trucks up to two-three weeks that created huge sufferings for exporters, he said.
Business leaders said that there was a huge demand for Bangladeshi goods in India’s seven north-eastern states.
As to trade gap, which is highly in favor of India, Pankaj Saran said that both the countries have to work towards making bilateral trade more balanced.
However, there are some issues of para-tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. India is fully committed to addressing them and several steps are being taken to remove difficulties relating to testing, labeling and warehousing facilities, the high commissioner said.
‘At the end of March, India has decided to accept standard certificate for clearance purpose of import consignments,’ he said.
Currently, exported goods remained idle ever for weeks for completion of testing activities as it takes place far away from the customs stations that causes loss to the exporters.
He said that infrastructure developments were going on. India has taken initiative to upgrade eight land customs stations. Besides Benapole-Petrapole, both countries should look at other land routes, more rail movement and more use of waterways to conduct trade.
Facilitating trade at border, he mentioned that one border haat was now operational and a second one at Balat-Lauwaghar is ready for operation. Opening of four other haats on the Tripura border is under consideration. Proposals are also there for opening border haats along the Mizoram border.
About power supply to Bangladesh, Pankaj said that India made some concrete progress in the power sector.
‘If we go as per plan, 500 MW of power should be flowing into Bangladesh by the middle of 2013,’ he said.
As to ban on export of cotton, the Indian high commissioner said both the countries were working on signing a contractual agreement for uninterrupted cotton supply to Bangladesh by the end of May.
Many initiatives have been taken for improvement of economic and trade relationship. ‘Now we have to watch whether these initiatives are leading to higher investment and more balanced trade, especially more Bangladesh exports,’ he said.
The India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industries president Abdul Matlub Ahmed, FBCCI first vice-president Md. Jasim Uddin, vice-president Mostafa Azad Chowdhury Babu, director Abdul Haque, among others, spoke at the meeting.
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