Independent, 26 March 2008, Bangladesh

Commerce Adviser Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman Monday said Bangladesh would study the outcomes of Sri Lanka and Nepal’s bilateral trade deals with India signed undercover of free trade agreements (FTA), reports UNB.

“We believe, we’re not each other’s competitors in regional trade, but we need more discussions and study…We should see first how the Nepal and Sri Lanka’s agreements with India work and benefit them,” he told a regional seminar on regional trade at Brac INN auditorium in the city.

South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) and CUTS International India and Commonwealth Secretariat, London jointly organised the discussion. Presided over by SANEM executive director Dr. Selim Raihan, the function was moderated by CPD chairman Prof Rehman Sobahan.

Zillur said the South Asian region is far way from establishing a regional trade bloc although many regions have shown good success in this regard. Expressing his opinion on developing local industries, he said there should be emphasis not only on getting access to regional and international markets, but also on the enhancement of local productivity, quality and diversification.

“If we don’t improve our productivity, quality and diversity, we won’ t be able to derive benefits from the market access,” he said adding that the focus should be on the future exporters alongside the present ones.

The Commerce Adviser said the matter of regional trade should be considered from a holistic point of view so that it could address all the issues.

Former SAARC secretary general QMA Rahim said the move to introduce regional trade under SAFTA among the south Asian nations has failed because of non-tariff barriers (NTBs). “Unless the NTBs are removed, no bilateral trade agreement will work,” he observed.

CPD executive director Prof Mustafizur Rahman said Indian investment in Bangladesh would come when their investors find that their exports to the Indian market have a zero tariff access. He cited Tata Group’s investment proposal and said the Indian giant was very cautiously looking into the zero tariff product list when they planned to invest.

FBCCI Adviser Manzur Ahmed said India, as the largest economy of the region, should come forward to remove obstacles to the regional trade to help its small neighbours by ensuring market access. Prof Indra Nath Mukharjee and Bipul Chatterjee of India, Newaj Rajabdeen of Sri Lanka, and Navin Dahal of Nepal also spoke at the seminar