BANGLADESH currently enjoys a duty-free access to the Indian market. Yet Bangladeshi business community has not been able to take advantage of the facility to the desired extent. Although over the decade 2003 – 2013, export volume has increased fivefold to more than US$500 million per annum, it is a paltry figure considering that rest of the world exports worth $350 billion to India every year. According to a study carried out by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), there are major problems holding up trade facilitation between the two countries.
Our trade export basket remains limited to traditional items such as raw jute, jute items, fertiliser and frozen products. Yet today, Bangladesh enjoys comparative advantage in producing several items like bicycles and leather products amongst others. But there have been no efforts to sell these products to the Indian market. It is up to our policymakers and the business community to push these products to the Indian market.
The CPD study has found four major areas that require improvement. Poor infrastructure, inadequate customs and port facilities, non-tariff barriers and difficult export procedures all collude to hinder exports. Of these, the unfriendly trade-transaction regime at the customs and port ends that process 90 per cent of trade between Bangladesh and India have done more to limit exports than other factors. Hence, if we are to make a dent in the Indian market, policymakers must take concrete steps to improve trade connectivity, transportation links and foster greater people-to-people contacts.