Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) have agreed to accelerate the removal of idle containers from the Chittagong Port premises in order to increase cargo-handling capacities and improve health and safety situation in the port, which is the largest gateway for Bangladesh's trade with the EU.
In addition, approval would be issued for interchange of empty containers between Dhaka rail and river terminals.
Bangladesh has agreed a few months ago as suggested by the EU to launch a survey to assess the costs and benefits of up to 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in Bangladesh's logistics sector.
The issues were discussed at the 7th plenary meeting under the EU-Bangladesh business climate dialogue held in a city hotel on Thursday.
The dialogue aims to jointly facilitate trade and investment from the EU – Bangladesh's number one trading partner and the second largest source of FDI to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh's exports to the EU amounted to around €16 billion in the 2021 calendar year, while the EU exports to Bangladesh were to the tune of €3 billion, according to a joint statement.
The plenary was co-chaired by senior commerce secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh and EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley.
It was attended by EU Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Dhaka – Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.
Representatives of the numerous government authorities including the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida), Ministry of Shipping, National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Bangladesh Bank participated in the dialogue, as well as some representatives from the EU private sector.
Both sides took stock of discussions in three priority fields, namely – tax and customs, shipping and logistics, and green business practices.
They agreed a joint committee will be constituted to examine the challenges and opportunities to simplify the customs clearance process for both express and non-express air cargoes.
The "green business practices" is a new topic in the dialogue, under which the EU side informed the government of Bangladesh about the upcoming supply chain due diligence requirements in Europe and encouraged adaptive actions with a view to ensure smooth trade with the EU as the number one market for Bangladeshi exports.
The EU side informed the meeting about two upcoming initiatives – the "EU-Bangladesh Meaning Business", which is conceived in the context of the 50th anniversary of the European Union (EU's) diplomatic relations with Bangladesh established in 1973.
It aims to showcase commercial sectors which are underexplored and where closer collaboration between Bangladesh and Europe could be mutually beneficial.
"Eurocham" in Bangladesh, a European Union (EU) Chamber of Commerce, will also be established.
It aims to build bridges between the Bangladeshi and EU private sectors and serve as a centre of excellence connecting Bangladeshi public and private sectors with investors from Europe, to the benefit of smooth and sustained business relations between Bangladesh and the EU.
It would also help to navigate Bangladesh's transition to a post-EBA trade regime in the EU, according to the joint statement.
The heads of mission expressed their desire to continue working constructively in improving trade and investment relations with Bangladesh. The next plenary is scheduled for the first semester of 2023.