Bangladesh yesterday sought duty-free access of 36 products to Thailand to narrow a huge trade gap with the Southeast Asian country.
The products for which the trade benefit is being sought are jute and jute goods, garments, agricultural products, processed food and sweaters.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed asked for the duty-free facility in the fourth joint trade commission meeting between Bangladesh and Thailand held at the Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka. The two-day meeting ended
But the bilateral trade between the two countries is heavily tilted towards Thailand.
Bangladesh's share in the $995 million bilateral trade in 2016-17 was only $48 million. Thailand exports mainly clinkers, machineries, cosmetics, toiletries and food items to Bangladesh.
At the meeting Ahmed urged Thai entrepreneurs to invest more in Bangladesh.
At present, 100 Thai companies are in operation in the country with investment totalling $1.5 billion in sectors such as poultry, food processing, ceramics, tiles, and energy.
The minister called for more Thai investment in tourism, infrastructure, power generation, agro and food processing, health services, light engineering and IT.
Ahmed also offered a special economic zone to Thai businessmen. Bangladesh is developing 100 special economic zones across the country to attract both foreign and local investment.
The commerce minister also urged his Thai counterpart Apiradi Tantraporn to accept the certification of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution so exports from Bangladesh to Thailand increase.
After the meeting, both Ahmed and Tantraporn announced at a joint media briefing that a feasibility study would be carried out to see whether a free trade agreement could be signed between the two countries to boost trade. They also said they want to raise the bilateral trade to $2 billion by 2021.
During the commission meeting, Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding with Thailand to import up to 10 lakh tonnes of rice each year until 2021.
Food Minister Md Qamrul Islam and Tantraporn signed the initial agreement.
The price of the rice will be fixed as per the rate in the international market at the time of the imports, said a joint statement.
The fifth joint trade commission meeting will be held in Thailand at a convenient time, it said.