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Bangladesh unlikely to cut subsidy on jute goods export




Bangladesh is unlikely to reduce incentives on exports of jute goods, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said yesterday. He shared the info at a press briefing after Indian Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan paid a courtesy call on him at the minister's secretariat office in Dhaka. At the meeting, the minister raised the issue of the antidumping duty that India slapped on Bangladesh's jute goods in January 2017. On the contrary, Wadhawan urged Munshi to cut the subsidy—ranging from 7 per cent to 20 per cent—that Bangladesh provides to the exporters of jute goods. Munshi said his government might not reduce the subsidy as per the Indian demand and Bangladesh will try to resolve the antidumping duty issue through bilateral discussion. Bangladesh has been seeking removal of the antidumping duty for the last four years, as this has affected the country's exports to Indian markets. If the issue is not resolved through bilateral discussions then Bangladesh might go to the World Trade Organisation, the minister also said.


The commerce secretary also shed light on Bangladesh's onion imports from India and the signing of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two neighbours. Munshi said India agreed to give onion seeds so that Bangladesh can grow the item in summer season to increase its production here and reduce the country's dependence on Indian onion. Of Bangladesh's total onion import, some 75 per cent comes from India. But both the countries get affected when onion crisis begins. That is why, India imposes ban on onion export to Bangladesh almost every year to meet national demand. Relying too much on Indian onion is not right, the minister said. "So, Bangladesh may import onions from other countries like Myanmar." Bangladesh has been negotiating for signing of the CEPA to bring Indian investment here and to increase export to the neighbouring country, which enjoys a trade balance.


The signing of the CEPA with India is needed to enjoy trade benefit after 2026 when Bangladesh will be graduated finally to a developing country from the least developed country category, he said. Moreover, negotiation is underway to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Indonesia and a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Nepal. The government has been taking preparations to sign either CEPA, FTA or PTA with 11 countries to continue enjoying duty privileges after its economic graduation. Bangladesh will lose $4 billion worth of business after the graduation to a developing country due to an erosion of duty preferences, the minister said. Munshi said Bangladesh will also discuss the problems faced by the local exporters when India will frame new customs rules at the commerce secretary level meeting to be held at a Dhaka hotel today. He said three more border haats would be opened up soon along the Bangladesh and Indian border areas. Another border haat may be opened up along with Bangladesh and Mizoram of India in near future as the Mizoram provincial government has expressed interest for it, he said.