Dhaka should focus on regional trade blocs to harness potentials

01 November 2021

Discussants at a webinar have laid emphasis on greater focus on regional trade blocs to harness economic potentials, attract trade-investment and achieve higher growth on the last day of Bangladesh trade and investment summit in the city on Friday. We very much agree with their recommendations that Bangladesh needs to work more on policy reforms, product and market diversification, business process simplification, competitiveness of tax and tariff regimes and infrastructure development for regional integration. The country has vast economic potentials presented by its geographical position in the Asia and Pacific region and what it needs to achieve is harmonisation of policy reforms to expedite growth.
It appears, although the Asia-Pacific is the third largest export destination of Bangladesh unfortunately we don't have any Preferential or Free Trade Agreement in the region. We have now US$ 36 billion bilateral trade with the countries of the region and there is no doubt that Bangladesh's exports may increase manifolds with mutual trade agreements with regional countries, It will also bring a boost to foreign direct investment supported by transfer of technology. We should not fear that the loss of import duty under any reciprocal free or preferential trade agreement will bring erosion to government revenue earnings and bring a setback to development spendings. When our exports will be able to enter a wider regional market at lower duty or no duty our products may become heavily cheaper and multiply domestic manufacturing. It will not only bring new investments but also boost local employment to bring prosperity at all levels.
Asia is the new global economic frontier and Bangladesh is a part of it. It now depends on how we plan to take advantage of our location and low cost manufacturing with regional trade blocs through free trade or preferential trade agreements. Our domestic market is apparently becoming attractive for foreign investment. We now need quick development of infrastructure which
we are no doubt achieving. We need partners in regional trade blocs and a global value chain. Backward linkage in apparel industries, automobiles or light engineering industries can prove highly effective to successfully work with regional partners. We need linking Bangladesh's economy at this moment with the regional trade blocs and strengthening our trade relations. We therefore need low cost financing, capacity building and people-to-people connectivity among the Asian countries.

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