Govt focusing on signing PTAs, FTAs considering LDC graduation: Tipu

Commerce minister Tipu MunhsiFile photo

Commerce minister Tipu Munshi on Monday said that considering the graduation of Bangladesh from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status, the government is focusing on signing Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with potential partners, reports news agency BSS.

“But, to avail international support measures even after LDC graduation, we need to enhance our negotiation skills,” he said.

The commerce minister said these when the newly elected Board of Directors of DCCI (Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries), led by its president Md. Sameer Sattar, called on him at his secretariat office.

Tipu said the government is not doing any business, rather it has been working relentlessly to sustain a business friendly environment, ensuring required policy reforms and infrastructural development in the country.

Noting that blue economy is a vast area, he said, “We’ve a great opportunity to avail the blessings of this sector. I’ll urge the business community to explore the best out of it.”

He further said that Bangladesh is self-sufficient in food and agriculture production as the prime minister of Bangladesh has requested everyone not to spare an inch of land without cultivation.

The commerce minister also called upon the business community to invest more in the agro-processing industries.

During the discussion, DCCI president Md. Sameer Sattar said that following the LDC graduation, Bangladesh would lose the preferential market access and would face 8 to 16 per cent export tariff as a developing country in different export markets.

To overcome export losses, he urged for formulating a “transition strategy” with the participation of private sector to address the issues of post-LDC era.

He also said that Bangladesh needs to sign FTAs with more potential countries and important economic blocs to offset the loss of preferential market access.

Citing that the export market of Bangladesh is largely confined to the market of EU and USA, Sameer said new market development in the Southeast Asia and Africa region needs to be prioritised along with product diversification.

“Moreover, we can negotiate with other countries to increase duty free and quota free access to Bangladesh after LDC graduation,” he said.

The DCCI president also underscored the importance for reducing the existing import tariff rate which is relatively higher than other countries in the region.

“This is because, after 2026, we will need a competitive and open tariff to compete in the international market,” he added.

Sameer Sattar also said that the government needs to consider sustenance of the supply chain of essential commodities during the Holy Month of Ramadan at an affordable price amidst the current inflationary stress.

He also said that in order to keep prices of essential commodities affordable and keep inflation under control during the Ramadan, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) may consider giving certain tax benefits to the importers during that period.

In order to increase business efficiency and ease, the DCCI president suggested whether a separate commercial court could be established in order to ensure quick disposal of commercial disputes along with necessary reforms to the Arbitration Act 2001.

Senior vice president of DCCI SM Golam Faruk Alamgir (Arman), vice president Md Junaed Ibna Ali and members of the board of directors were also present in the meeting.