Published in The Daily Star on Sunday, 6 September 2015.
Refayet Ullah Mirdha
Bangladesh is yet to approve the trade facilitation agreement or TFA adopted by the World Trade Organisation in 2013 to simplify customs procedures and lower trade cost.
The TFA requires a nation to provide customs clearances from a single window and take all related procedures online to fast-track the movement of goods from ports.
Bangladesh should ratify the agreement immediately if it comes in favour of the country, said Matlub Ahmad, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The FBCCI will sit with the commerce ministry today to express their opinion on the agreement.
The TFA can help the world save $400 billion to $1 trillion a year if the countries accept and implement it, according to an estimate of the WTO.
The cost of doing business, particularly in the least-developed countries, is higher as the importers and exporters have to pay extra money as bribe in customs, transportation and to process other documents.
The cost of doing business will fall by 10-15 percent, if international trade goes paperless, the WTO estimated.
As of yesterday, 16 out of 161 WTO members have given go-ahead to the TFA, which will be automatically enforced once two-thirds of the members of the organisation accept the agreement.
Belize, Switzerland, China, Niger, Nicaragua, Hong Kong, Trinidad and Tobago, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the United States, Mauritius, Malaysia, Japan and Australia are some of the countries who have already approved the agreement.
“Bangladesh has tried to ratify the TFA once, but it was not done finally as some quarters opposed it. Now we are thinking again to implement the deal,” a senior official of the commerce ministry said preferring anonymity.
Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, is backing the deal.
“Bangladesh should approve the TFA for making the business procedures easier for both domestic and overseas trade,” Rahman told The Daily Star by phone. “The ratification is required for our own interests. Once the agreement comes into effect, it will leave a positive impact on the prices of imported basic commodities at the customers’ level.”
The prices of commodities will come down for quick customs clearance of goods at the ports, he said.
After approving the TFA, Bangladesh can demand a significant amount of money from the developed and developing countries to improve its infrastructure and to train the officials. The WTO will provide the fund under its “Aid for Trade” package adopted in 2005.
“Bangladesh, which is a least-developed country, will also be able to submit its trade roadmap to the developed and developing countries,” he said.
But Bangladesh will also have to follow certain rules if it ratifies the agreement, Rahman said.