Published in Daily Sun on Monday, 1 June 2015.
Non-tariff Barriers Too High
Trade deficit with India widens
A huge gap exists in Bangladesh-India export trade as commodities from this country find no easy access to the big Indian market.
According to sources, Bangladesh imported $603 crore worth of goods from India while it exported to that country items worth $46 crore in 2013-14. India imported for its 125 crore people commodities worth $45,059 crore from April 2013 to March 2014. Earlier in 2006-07, the import from India amounted to $223 crore while the export from Bangladesh stood at $29 crore.
The commerce ministry in Dhaka and the exporters maintain that India wants an increase in import from Bangladesh. To this end, India has granted duty-free access to all items from Bangladesh except drugs and arms. But these huge facilities do not serve any purpose due to the existence of various non-tariff barriers from the Indian side. On the discussion table at different times Bangladesh demanded removal of these barriers but all went in vain. Now Dhaka will take up the issue directly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his upcoming visit.
In 2006-07, the trade deficit of Bangladesh with India was $194 crore, but it shot up to $558 crore during the last fiscal. In this regard, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said, “We can export to India all items except 25 items including products of tobacco and alcohol. Although the trade has increased between the two countries, there are many non-tariff barriers in Bangladesh-India bilateral trades. With a view to removing these, the basic problems have been identified. Bilateral talks will be held on this issue and the problems will be resolved.”
Executive director of the CPD Prof Dr Mostafizur Rahman said India takes from Bangladesh only one-tenth of one percent of its total import. The export of many duty-free items to India is being impeded due to some problems. To remove those problems, the customs hassles on the border of both the countries should be removed. But the prime need is to sign a bilateral deal relating to SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) measures.
Commerce ministry officials said six reasons have been identified behind the lack of rise in export to India, despite duty-free access. Dhaka will request Narendra Modi for early settlement of this matter.
The officials further said there is no warehouse in most of the land ports on Indian side along the border. As a result, the Bangladeshi items sent for export to India are kept under open sky till clearance is given by the customs authorities and major portion of those items are damaged.
Officials of commerce ministry’s free trade agreement branch said the main obstacle to export of commodities to India is the non-acceptance of BSTI certificate by India. In other words, if Bangladeshi items certified by the BSTI are exported, India does not accept those without test. The sample of those items is sent by post to the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) authorities. After examination and scrutiny, they send those back to the land ports. And only then the Bangladeshi goods get the clearance and it takes one month to 40 days.
India has not responded to Bangladesh request for clearing its items accepting the BSTI certificate. During Narendra Modi’s visit, Bangladesh will raise the issue. According to sources, in Modi’s presence a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the BSTI of Bangladesh and BIS of India is expected to be signed.