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The Bangladesh Tariff Commission has identified 110 products to seek preferential market access for their export to Nepal under the planned Preferential Trade Agreement between the two countries. The list, known as a request list, containing products mainly from the readymade garment, electronics, motorcycle, agro-processed food, dairy, plastic, footwear and steel sectors has been prepared considering their export potential to the country. The commission will soon finalise the list after taking opinions of the exporters and stakeholders into consideration.

The BTC on December 26 last year held a meeting with the stakeholders, including exporters, about the list and sought opinions from the trade bodies. Officials said that the commission took the initiative to prepare the list following a request of the commerce ministry as part of the negotiation on signing the PTA with the Himalayan country. They said that both countries had expressed their interests to enter into a preferential trade agreement regime during the fourth meeting of the Nepal-Bangladesh commerce joint-secretary level technical committee held in Kathmandu of Nepal in 22-23 October 2019. At the meeting, the South Asian country sought duty free access for a number of products of the country to the Bangladesh market. In response, Bangladesh proposed to sign a PTA between the countries as Bangladesh also demands duty benefit for its products to the country.

The meeting then decided that Bangladesh would exchange its request list containing the name of products against which it seeks duty benefits with the country. Earlier in 2016, Bangladesh prepared a request list containing the names of 56 products and an offer list of 108 Nepalese products for preferential market access to the Bangladesh market. But the move failed to see light alter on. Now the commerce ministry has asked the Bangladesh Tariff Commission to revise the list and prepare a revised request list. Officials said that the BTC had identified 110 products for which Bangladesh would seek the preferential market access to Nepal after taking a number of criteria into consideration.

It excluded products which were now on a sensitive list of Nepal under the South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) for the least developed countries. The inclusion criteria selected items which had an average global export value of more than $1 million in the last three years, which were at present exported to Nepal and had Nepal’s average global import value of more than $1 million in last three years.

Currently, Nepal maintains a sensitive list of 998 for LDCs and 1,036 products for non-LDCs which are not entitled to preferential trade benefits under the SAFTA. The commission also assessed the products’ prospects for future export based on the analysis prepared by the Bangladesh embassy in Nepal. Officials said that 52 out of the 110 products identified are currently exported to Nepal. A total of 41 products have been chosen from the previous list.

They said that the Bangladesh embassy in Nepal had informed that Bangladeshi products, including furniture, ceramic, electronic and electronics products, melamine, processed food, readymade garment, motorcycle, bicycle, construction materials and solar panel, were in demand in Nepal. In addition, the commerce ministry has also requested the commission to consider RMG and pharmaceutical products while preparing the list.

The commission has not considered pharmaceutical products and furniture in the new list as both the products are already now out of the Nepalese sensitive list under the SAFTA and enjoy low duty rates, with pharmaceutical products getting 0 to 14 per cent duty and furniture 11.25 per cent.

The products which made the list prepared by the BTC are milk and cream, nuts, spice mixtures, chewing gum, sugar confectionary, chocolate, sweet biscuit, juices, sauces, mineral water, wafer, beverages, tobacco, Portland cement, soap, tableware, kitchenware of plastics, plastics items, handbags, paper and paper board, fabrics, garment items, footwear, steel products, refrigerators, freezers, liquid dielectric transformers, static converters, lead acid accumulators, vehicles parts and accessories and motorcycle. Officials said that the signing of a PTA with Nepal would be beneficial for Bangladesh. Among the South Asian countries, Bangladesh has a trade surplus only with the land-locked Nepal which exported goods worth $38 million in the last financial year of 2019-2020.

Source: New Age BD, 12.01.2020