South Asia today is seen as the new frontier with immense prospects for investment and growth, rivalling that of the industrialised Southeast Asia, said the chief of Bangladesh's apex trade body yesterday.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka make up South Asia.
“I think by combining our joint efforts Bangladesh and India has the potential to further the Saarc agenda and promote regional cooperation,” said Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Saarc is the intergovernmental organisation and geopolitical union of nations in South Asia.
The interest and enthusiasm of doing business with each other is at its peak now, Mohiuddin said at the Bangladesh-India Business Meeting yesterday. The FBCCI organised the event on the occasion of the visit of Arun Jaitley, India's finance minister, at the capital's Sonargaon Hotel.
While there has been a surge in the volume of bilateral trade between Bangladesh and India increased over the years, it is still in favour of the neighbouring country.
“The statistics speaks for itself.”
For instance, in fiscal 2016-17, Bangladesh's exports to India stood at $672.40 million, whereas imports from India amounted to $6.2 billion, up 13 percent from a year earlier.
The reasons for the trade imbalance are that Bangladesh's shipments to India are routinely affected by trade and non-trade barriers that neutralise the duty-free benefits provided by the neighbouring country, Mohiuddin said.
“We hope we can make concrete progress to resolve the issues.” The movement of people is also an issue, the FBCCI chief said.
While Bangladesh issues visa that allows Indian businesspersons to use any land port, India's business visa require selecting any one land port. “We look forward to reciprocal accordance,” Mohiuddin said.
The picture though is not all gloomy.
About 70 percent of Bangladesh-India trade is conducted through the Benapole-Petrapole land ports and it has been upgraded to an all-time integrated check post to facilitate faster movement of goods-laden trucks, he said.
Mohiuddin invited the Indian entrepreneurs to invest in textile, manufactured goods, consumer goods, agro-processed products, fish processing, leather, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, food products, electronics and electric products.
At the meeting, Pankaj R Patel, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, called for greater integration between the two countries for more trade.
He also urged both the governments for restoration of old railways between the two countries.
The signing of coastal agreement between the two countries will help increase trade, he said, while also calling for more flights between the two countries.