Published on 12:00 AM, September 16, 2021

Govt signs trade, investment deal with Australia

Aims to remove barriers

Bangladesh and Australia yesterday signed the Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (Tifa) to attract investment and eliminate trade barriers between the two countries.

This is the second bilateral trade-related platform for Bangladesh after it inked Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement with the US in November 2013.

Tipu Munshi, commerce minister of Bangladesh, and Dan Tehan, trade, tourism and investment minister of Australia, signed the deal at a virtual ceremony.

"We need foreign investment. Australia is a very potential country for us both for investment and as export destination," Munshi told The Daily Star after the event.

"The trade with Australia is growing. We are ready to approve Australian investment in any sector."

A big team from Australia is scheduled to visit Bangladesh in the first part of next year.

Both sides will hold meetings soon to formulate the guidelines of the Tifa and on how and when they will hold dialogues under the platform.

The Tifa is not related to duty preference and mainly concerns about investment. Currently, Bangladesh enjoys preferential duty benefits on exports to Australia as a least-developed country.

The Tifa, the first of its kind between Australia and Bangladesh in the last five decades, is expected to provide a platform for institutionalised economic interactions and to open newer opportunities for trade and investment.

A joint working group (JWG) will be formed under the Tifa with representations from relevant sectors and sub-sectors, according to a statement from the Bangladeshi high commission in Australia.

The JWG is expected to offer a mechanism to take forward discussions to realise fuller potentials of trade and investment.

"We would expect the Tifa to address all relevant questions, including the retention of the DFQF [duty-free, quota-free] treatment for Bangladesh in post-LDC graduation, trade liberalisation, creation of a conducive atmosphere for greater trade in services, and the flow of investment," said Munshi in the statement.

"The Morrison government is working to energise and expand the trade and investment relationship between Australia and Bangladesh, to support jobs and business opportunities in both countries," said Tehan.

He assured Bangladesh of the continuation of duty-free and quota-free treatment pending the next review, which is not scheduled in the foreseeable future.

"Australia has the potential to meet Bangladesh's increasing educational, training and energy needs. And we offer world-class expertise in agriculture and infrastructure development."

Bilateral trade has grown six times over the past decade. In the fiscal year of 2018-19, Bangladesh exported goods worth $804.63 million and imported merchandise valued $596.70 million, data from the commerce ministry showed.

Garment, agriculture, food and education services were key drivers of the trade growth. Australia is turning into a major source of raw cotton and lentil for Bangladesh.

Although it is not a legally binding agreement, the Tifa can help add new tradeable items from both sides and facilitate bilateral trade and investment.

Australia has proposed to host the inaugural meeting of the JWG in early 2022.

Speaking at the event, Sufiur Rahman, high commissioner of Bangladesh to Australia, said Australia could utilise Bangladesh as one of its major suppliers of manufactured goods.

"Australia can see Bangladesh as the entry point to the sub-regional market of more than 300 million people."

Munshi invited Tehan to visit Dhaka. The Australian minister warmly accepted the request and promised to visit Bangladesh next year with a trade and investment delegation.

Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer also spoke at the event.