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Duty-free access high on agenda at Bangladesh-Australia trade meet

The joint working group meeting under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed with Australia last year is slated for 22 February

TBS Report

07 February, 2022, 09:35 pm

Last modified: 07 February, 2022, 09:44 pm

Representational Image. Photo: Mumit M/TBS

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Representational Image. Photo: Mumit M/TBS

The Ministry of Commerce is going to meet its Australian counterpart, seeking continuation of duty-free, quota-free market access even after Bangladesh’s graduation from the least developed country club.

The joint working group meeting under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed with Australia last year is slated for 22 February.

According to the commerce ministry and the Bangladesh High Commission in Canberra, one of Bangladesh’s agenda at the meeting is to ensure that Bangladeshi exports enjoy an uninterrupted preferential duty benefit to Australia, even after Dhaka’s least developed country (LDC) graduation in 2026.

Currently, Bangladesh enjoys duty benefits on export to Australia as an LDC, while the graduation may revoke the facility.

Besides, Dhaka will seek Australian assistance in cold chain management, help for the green and responsible apparel industry through networking and linking, and support for registration of Bangladeshi mango exporters to that country.

In addition, Bangladesh will highlight importing coal, liquefied natural gas (LNG), fertiliser and wheat from Australia.

On the other hand, Australia will underscore increasing cotton export to Bangladesh, energy cooperation through coal and LNG export, defence sales and taking in more Bangladeshi students for higher study.

Despite not having any free trade agreement, Bangladesh’s trade with Australia has increased about five times in the last ten years. Bangladesh’s export to Australia in the 2019-20 fiscal year was $762.9 million against the $695.7 million import during the same period.

Australian investment in Bangladesh up to that fiscal year stood at $309 million, 87% of which was the portfolio investment.

Commerce ministry officials said Bangladesh is yet to attract significant Australian investment, especially the foreign direct investment (FDI). One of the reasons for the lower FDI flow from Australia to Bangladesh is that Australia’s foreign investment opportunities and interests are not currently aligned with Bangladesh’s thrust sectors.

Another important issue relating to FDI and trade with Bangladesh is that Australian investors may feel comfortable in a predictable business environment governed by agreements such as ASEAN-Australia FTA, RCEP and TPP-11 and bi-lateral trade agreements with 15 countries.

According to Bangladesh’s high commission in Canberra, tariff liberalisation, lesser customs duty, mutually recognised standards and other procedures, supply chain etc. are likely to be advantageous for Bangladesh’s competitors who are members of these trading agreements.

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