GUWAHATI, Oct 24 - Negotiations for a trade pact with India would be �tough�, but if both countries reach an agreement it would be a great �diplomatic innovation�, Bangladesh PM�s economic advisor AKM Mashiur Rahman has said.
India has proposed Bangladesh to consider negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement with a view to promote two-way commerce and investments, citing that after Bangladesh graduates from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status, it will no longer have duty-free and quota-free access for its products to the Indian market under SAFTA (South Asia Free Trade Agreement).
During a chat with this correspondent on the sidelines of the India-Bangladesh Stakeholders� meet here, Rahman indicated that his country was not keen on a normal FTA as its export basket was small and comprise mainly of garments and electronics.
�After Sri Lanka signed a free trade agreement with India, its trade gap increased. There were more imports creating an imbalance,� he said, adding, Dhaka was in favour of a �comprehensive� agreement on a �non-reciprocal basis�.
�We would want India to give more concessions and further supplement the gap by investments... Both the countries should think on such a possibility. If we can do, it would be good for the entire region,� he said.
Admitting that negotiations for such an agreement would be �tough�, Rahman said if achieved, it would be a �great diplomatic innovation.�
The bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh in 2018-19 was over USD 10 billion, and Bangladesh�s trade deficit, despite crossing USD 1 billion exports for the first time, was nearly USD 8 billion. The World Bank estimates Bangladesh-India bilateral trade potential to be USD16.4 billion. A lot of trade between the two countries is also informal.
Bangladesh has been complaining about non-tariff barriers (NTBs) hampering exports to India.
The economic advisor also said there can be negotiations for joint investments in some sectors like hydro-power.
�Development of the power potential in North-East India will be beneficial for both India and Bangladesh. There can be joint investments and India can allow Bangladesh to have a share. The power demand in NE is not as much. Mainland India is far from NE whereas Bangladesh is nearby. Transmission to power-starved Bangladesh would mean lesser losses,� he said.
When asked about the yet-to-start bus service from Guwahati to Dhaka and the suspended Guwahati-Dhaka flight service, Rahman blamed it on low demand.
�There is no exchange as such between Guwahati and Dhaka, whether it is business or social. The tourism industry in Bangladesh has also not grown much. Instead, NorthEast�s association with Sylhet is more. May be a bus service to Sylhet can be more viable,� he felt, pointing to the train service between Bangladesh and West Bengal which run full.