Govt keen on BCIM: TofailNew Age Online
Bangladesh will benefit much if the sub-regional Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar initiative progresses further, commerce minister Tofail Ahmed says, reports bdnews24.com.
“We cannot work with the SAARC and SAFTA the way we want to. I think, we will be benefited more if we can go ahead with the BCIM properly,” he said on Sunday.
BCIM is a regional grouping of Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar.
The minister was speaking to a delegation of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Secretariat.
Bangladesh formed South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) with six neighbouring countries. Afghanistan joined it later.
South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) was formed to deal with business issues of the member countries.
But SAFTA faces criticism for failing to play an effective role in bolstering economic and business facilities among the member countries.
Interestingly, Tofail Ahmed's statement of optimism about BCIM comes immediately after his visit to Delhi, where he met both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Adviser Shiv Shanker Menon.
Menon is a strong advocate of India-China friendship and worked hard to come up with a border defence cooperation agreement that seeks to control tensions on the disputed Himalayan border between the two Asian giants.
China joined India and Russia to support the Hasina government after the Jan 5 polls.
Discussions on BCIM forum got momentum last year after being discussed around for a decade.
Indian and Chinese prime ministers discussed the project last year during their visits to Beijing and Delhi last year.
Both countries decided to 'explore' the possibility of developing a BCIM economic corridor, alongside the Kolkata-Kunming highway through Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Last month, the BCIM forum decided to start 'joint research' on developing the proposed corridor.
Finance minister AMA Muhith had said China would be given greater priority than western countries and other traditional development partners of Bangladesh, not long after Beijing supported the Hasina government and said it would work with it after the Jan 5 polls.
Tofail Ahmed had gone to Delhi on Jan 16-17 to attend a summit of commerce ministers of the SAFTA where he discussed issues like transshipment with India.
“One fifth of the world’s population live in the SAARC countries but business is less than that. The main problem is connectivity.
“India, Afghanistan and Pakistan are discussing connectivity. Why should we be left behind?”
He said talks were on to take forward the BCIM.
The minister was hopeful of getting back GSP facilities the US suspended for Bangladesh by April.
Trade relation with India is not increasing even after so many initiatives because of duty embargo.
“India has given us duty free facility in all commodities except tobacco and alcohol. We export a lot to Europe and the US but we export products only worth $550 million to India.
“There are some tariff barriers in exporting products to India. If we fix the problems we will be able to export products worth $1 billion to the neighbouring country,” the minister said.
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