China is going to expand duty-free access to 99% of Bangladeshi goods including key export items like apparels, jute and leather products and frozen fish, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said.
The additional offer for 1% goods on top of existing 98% came Sunday during the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The new market advantage will be effective from 1 September.
Dhaka reaffirmed its support for the "one-China" policy while Beijing assured of its commitment to finding a solution to begin the Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar, Momen told a media briefing Sunday after talks with his Chinese counterpart in the morning.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a meeting with the Chinese foreign minister said South Asia, South East Asia and China could work together for economic progress by facing challenges arising from the Russia-Ukraine war.
Referring to the Russia-Ukraine war, sanctions and counter sanctions, she said, "People [across the globe] are suffering from all these reasons."
Duty-free offer widened
"All the Bangladeshi goods – readymade garments, jute and jute-made products, leather and leather goods, frozen fish, agri products and light engineering items – are already getting the duty-free access," Noor Md Mahbubul Haq, additional secretary to the
Commerce Ministry (FTA), told The Business Standard.
"Now with the facility further expanded by 1%, we need to assess whether we have new products to get the benefits from the tariff line," he noted.
China had been providing 97% duty-free facility to 8,256 Bangladeshi products, including all garment products, since 1 July 2021.
Adding more 383 new products including leather items to the list, the facility was expanded to 98% later.
Trade data showed Bangladesh's exports to China stood at $683 million in the last fiscal year, while it was at $680 million in the previous year.
Officials and businessmen were sceptical about utilising the advantage properly, as trade data showed the duty-free facility could not boost Bangladesh's export to China as anticipated due to Bangladesh's limited capacity and lack of product standards.
ATM Azizul Akil, senior vice-president of the Bangladesh-China Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "If we can increase our capacity, Bangladesh will be able to fetch billions of dollars cashing in on the duty-free facility provided by China."
To capitalise on the zero-tariff treatment, the country needs to diversify export products alongside ensuring standards, ATM Azizul Akil pointed out.
There is also a huge potential for exports of freshwater fish and poultry items to China. For that, Bangladesh must strictly maintain product quality, he added.
Dhaka seeks Beijing to speed up dev projects
Foreign Minister Momen said the top-level meeting discussed bilateral, regional and global issues, and expressed hope to raise the bilateral ties between Dhaka and Beijing to a new level.
"The visit was politically significant, as fruitful discussions took place between the two sides. A quarter is inciting to hamper peace and development in China, Bangladesh will be on China's side. Taiwan is separatist, Bangladesh sticks to one-China policy," said Momen.
He said Wang Yi appreciated Bangladesh's support for the "one-China" policy amid heightened tensions between mainland China and Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent trip to Taipei.
Dhaka sought cooperation from Beijing to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, as Wang Yi assured Bangladesh of China's commitment to finding a solution to begin the repatriation.
The foreign minister also told the press briefing that Dhaka also talked about speeding up the ongoing projects with Chinese funding.
In response to the query whether there was any discussion about new loans from Beijing, the foreign minister said that there were no such discussions.
Wang Yi arrived in Dhaka on Saturday evening. Agriculture Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque received him at Dhaka Airport. He called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina before leaving Dhaka on Sunday noon.
During the visit, Bangladesh and China signed four Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) and agreements to boost cooperation between the two countries.
Cooperation on infrastructure development, disaster management, cultural exchange and marine science cooperation are among the signed documents, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam told journalists.
He said the Chinese minister also showed interest to commence discussion regarding preferential trade mechanisms with Bangladesh.
China to continue support Bangladesh in global forums
During the meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Chinese foreign minister said his country would support issues involving Bangladesh in the international forums and continue their cooperation for Bangladesh's overall development as a strategic partner.
PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed the newsmen after the meeting.
Wang Yi explained their stance over the Taiwan issue to the prime minister. Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh values its friendship with China, reiterating that it believes in "one-China" policy.
Sheikh Hasina said the forcibly displaced Rohingyas have been becoming a huge burden for Bangladesh and sought Chinese cooperation to resolve the issue.
In reply, the Chinese minister said they expect the Rohingya issue would be solved through bilateral talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
"If it requires tripartite involvement, then China would play its role," he said, mentioning that they are now constructing houses for Rohingyas in Myanmar.