Bangladesh is in favour of extending transhipment facility to India in an effort to broaden regional trade connectivity, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said yesterday.
Transhipment is the conveyance of goods or containers to an intermediate destination for delivery to another destination.
India has long been seeking to transport goods through Bangladesh to its 'Seven Sister' region, a cost- and time-saving route due to the country's proximity to the north-eastern Indian states than the rest of India.
Under the arrangement, Indian trucks would unload goods to the Bangladeshi border, for the local trucks to carry them over to the Seven Sister states, according to Ahmed.
“We would rather have a transhipment arrangement with India than transit,” Ahmed said after a meeting with Pankaj Saran, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh, at the secretariat.
The commerce minister also spoke of the other regional cooperation between Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar (BCIM), which is now at the final stages of negotiations.
Bangladesh will benefit more from the regional arrangement, now that the country is targeting diversification of both markets and products, he said.
Regarding the withdrawal of the ban on hilsa exports from Bangladesh to India, Ahmed said India has requested the government several times but the matter is yet to be decided.
But a secretary level meeting between Bangladesh and India will take place soon to discuss the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers, he added.
One of the barriers to trade between the two countries was the Indian traders' reluctance to accept certificates by the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institutions.
But Ahmed said India has agreed in principle to fund for the upgrading of BSTI and accept the certificates.
“But, we need to improve the infrastructures for increasing trade between the two countries,” he said.
In fiscal 2012-13, Bangladesh exported goods worth $560 million to India, up 13.5 percent year-on-year.
Garment products account for 80 percent of the total exports to India, whose domestic apparel market worth $35 billion has emerged as a lucrative destination of late.
Saran said connectivity between India and Bangladesh is gradually improving by way of water, trade and power. “We can also broaden the connectivity further by forming the BCIM.”
If Indian investment in Bangladesh increases further, so will exports, Saran added.
India's exports to Bangladesh is more than $5 billion annually through formal channels, but another $4 billion worth of goods is sent to Bangladesh by Indian traders through informal channels a year.