The cabinet on Monday approved the draft of a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Bhutan to expand duty-free market access.
By signing the PTA with Bhutan – the first country which recognised Bangladesh in 1971 – Bangladesh is set to enter the era of bilateral duty-free trade agreements.
Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told the press that the regular weekly cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, approved the PTA.
The cabinet secretary said Bangladesh has been providing duty-free market access to Bhutan in 18 products since 2010. Meantime, 90 Bangladeshi products have been getting duty-free access to Bhutanese market. Talks on the PTA signing began as Thimphu sought duty-free access of more Bhutanese items.
Khandker Anwarul Islam said the topic was discussed during the visit of the Prime Minister to Bhutan in 2019. Following this, a draft trade agreement was prepared and it was presented to the cabinet meeting.
Commerce Secretary Jafar Uddin told The Business Standard last week that the PTA with Bhutan will be signed this September after the cabinet's approval.
Officials said under the agreement, 10 Bangladeshi products, including readymade garments, will get duty-free access to the Bhutanese market, while 16 Bhutanese items will get duty-free facility to the Bangladeshi market.
The two neighbouring countries will later be able to add more items to the duty-free list.
The Bangladeshi products which will be covered under the PTA are babies' garments and clothing accessories, men's trousers and shorts, men's jackets and blazers, plywood, particle boards, mineral and carbonated water, green tea, orange juice, pineapple juice and guava juice.
On the other hand, Bhutanese products that will get duty-free access to the Bangladeshi market are milk, natural honey, wheat or meslin flour, homogenised preparations of jams, fruit jellies, marmalades, food preparations of soybeans, mineral water and carbonated water, wheat bran, quartzite, cement clinkers, Portland cement, soap, wooden particle boards, ferrosilicon, iron bars and rods or non-alloy steel and wooden furniture.