Nepal and Bhutan are engaged in separate negotiations with Bangladesh on preferential trade agreements for duty-free trade.
The governments of Bangladesh and Bhutan are assessing legalities of a draft Preferential Trade Arrangements agreed upon by both sides, while negotiators of Bangladesh and Nepal are examining scopes for trade expansion under a PTA keeping in considerations the potential created by a subregional network called the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal or BBIN.
‘Negotiations for a PTA are ongoing,’ Bangladesh ambassador to Nepal Mashfee Binte Shams said, adding that Nepal wanted duty-free access to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh and Nepal business people now send and receive their commodities by vehicles, mostly trucks and covered-vans owned by Nepalese and Indians, operated between land ports of the two countries through Indian territories.
The volume of Bangladesh’s export to Nepal was about $45 million in 2018-19 fiscal year, which was about $10 million in 2013-14, according to commerce ministry statistics.
Bangladesh exports motorcycle, prefabricated building materials, furniture and ceramic etc to Nepal.
Nepal’s export in the past financial year to Bangladesh was about $11m, consisting of mostly fruits and vegetables.
Bangladesh ambassador to Bhutan AKM Shahidul Karim said that the two countries concluded negotiations on signing a PTA and added, ‘It is going through a legal vetting process now on both sides.’
Both sides have kept in considerations the potentials of using regional road, train and river networks for trade expansion, he said, adding that Bhutan was seeking more ports of call for easing trade.
Bangladesh exports to the Himalayan kingdom, with nearly 8,00,000 population, were $33 million, mainly household products in 2018-19. Bhutan’s export to Bangladesh was US$3 million, mainly fruits and stones in 2018-19.
Bangladesh, India and Nepal agreed in January 2020, in the presence of a Bhutanese delegation, on a draft memorandum of understanding for enabling implementation of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement 2015 by the four countries.
The agreement would permit the four countries to ply their vehicles in each other’s territory for transportation of cargo and passengers, including third country transport and personal vehicles.
As per the agreement, each vehicle would require an electronic permit to enter another country’s territory.
Cargo vehicles will be able to enter any of the three countries, excluding Bhutan for now, under an electronic monitoring mechanism, without the need for trans-shipment of goods from one country’s truck to another’s at the border.
Bangladesh, Indian and Nepal have ratified the 2015 agreement, while Bhutan has requested for a cap to be fixed on the number of vehicles entering its territory.
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