Bangladesh has finalised a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) deal with Bhutan to tap the potential of boosting two-way trade.
After the day-long discussion with a Dhaka-visiting Bhutanese delegation, Bangladeshi officials finalised the agreement on Tuesday. If the deal is signed finally, it will be the maiden free-trade agreement for Bangladesh.
"The deal will be signed soon," confirmed Sharifa Khan, additional secretary (free trade agreement) of the commerce ministry.
"Everything has been almost finalised. It will be signed after being vetted by the law ministry," she said.
Commerce ministry officials said 19 Bhutanese products currently enjoy duty-free access to the Bangladeshi market.
During a high-level meeting in 2018, the neighbouring country requested duty-free access for 16 more items, including limestone and boulder.
The Bangladeshi delegation had responded that Dhaka cannot provide Thimphu with more facilities as Bhutan is not a World Trade Organization (WTO) member. Bangladesh as a WTO member has the responsibility to act as per WTO spirit.
Then Bhutan proposed an FTA and Bangladesh agreed. Trade between Dhaka and Thimphu amounted to Tk458 crore in the 2018-19 fiscal year, while exports stood at Tk38 crore.
Bangladesh primarily imported spices and fruits – like oranges and apples – from Bhutan during the fiscal year.
Garments, scientific and medical gear, fresh and frozen aquatic animals, machinery and parts are the products usually exported to Bhutan.