More efforts are required to ink the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with Malaysia, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has said.
Some progress had been made since agreeing to sign a bilateral FTA on 13 January 2015, but lots of efforts needed to be put to conclude the negotiation and sign the deal, he told a webinar on Bangladesh-Malaysia FTA organised by the Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) on Wednesday.
He said Bangladesh has longstanding diplomatic, trade, and commercial relations with Malaysia.
"There are multiple scopes to strengthen trade and commercial relations between the two countries. We have to avail these opportunities."
The minister said, "We are now offering lucrative facilities for investors along with easy investment procedures. Many countries are now stepping up to invest here and Malaysia can also avail this facility."
He said FTAs help enhance competitive advantage, strengthen investors' confidence, and to a large extent, build Bangladesh's economic sustainability.
Tipu said his ministry would strive to make Bangladesh the preferred investment destination and among the most globally competitive trading nations.
"Bangladesh has been a major beneficiary of an open market economy and globalisation. Naturally, the government will continue the practice of an open economy to encourage and facilitate businesses," he added.
BMCCI President Raquib Mohammad Fakhrul (Rocky) said Bangladesh's future trade benefits would largely depend on bilateral FTAs as the country would lose the duty-free facilities and a host of trade preferences after graduating from the status of least developed countries (LDCs) in 2024.
Highlighting the preferential trade agreement (PTA) signed with Bhutan in December 2020, which was the first bilateral trade deal of Bangladesh, Raquib said Bangladesh had not officially signed any FTA with any country yet.
He said deals like FTAs and PTAs would help Bangladesh continue to get the duty benefits after the LDC graduation, adding business communities of both countries needed to be ready for those.
Malaysian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Haznah Md Hashim said the two countries were already enjoying close bilateral and strong people-to-people relations.
Let therefore the established trade relations between these two nations be stronger without unnecessary issues on trade barriers, she said.
She signified the importance of FTA by saying if FTA was ever a mistake, Malaysia would not have repeated it again and again and ended up concluding it 16 times since 1993.
The latest one was concluded during the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic, she noted.
High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Malaysia Md Golam Sarwar said international trade would be more competitive for Bangladesh after the LDC graduation.
"To address this challenge, we need to formulate appropriate economic policies and conduct economic diplomacy by signing FTAs with potential trade partners. The focus for our policymakers should then be on how best to minimise the costs of FTAs while maximising their benefits," he said.
The business community, being the key stakeholder in the process, would need to explore mutually beneficial and pragmatic ways for connecting businesses between the two countries, with the promise of shared prosperity, he added.
Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission member Dr Mostafa Abid Khan presented the keynote.
Director of the Strategic Negotiations Division of Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry Amri Bukhairi Bakhtiar, Joint Secretary to Bangladesh's commerce ministry Noor Md Mahbubul Haq, Executive Secretary of Malaysia South-South Association Ng Su Fun, Research Director at the Centre for Policy Dialogue Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, immediate past BMCCI president Syed Moazzam Hossain, and Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Standard Chartered Malaysia Abrar Anwar also addressed the discussion.