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The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Test cases for India to reduce trade gap

| Updated: October 22, 2017 13:33:18


Test cases for India to reduce trade gap

The historic Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday,the second day of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's highly valued  visit to India witnessed   talks of far-reaching significance with   her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. A  composite  productive outcome followed to be  replete with  MoUs and deals including a    framework accord on defense cooperation, a 'new strategic element' to Indo-Bangla  relationship.
 All these will  remain  in  bilateral  discourses, perhaps more in Bangladesh than  in India for a long time to come , the former having some long-standing issues with the latter raring for a  speedy  resolution. Bangladesh should consider itself confidently poised to demand early settlement of  water sharing and trade imbalance issues, among some others.
For all the high-profile  atmosphere pertaining to the just-concluded Hasina visit, Bangladesh prime minister  secured a firm commitment from her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to this effect:"New Delhi would take concrete actions to address Dhaka's persistent concerns over the huge imbalance in bilateral trade."  
Speaking of our  'persistent concerns', we would like to flag off two issues in response to Modi's promise of concrete action to mitigate the  whopping trade imbalance. Bangladesh imported  goods worth $5.45 billion from India while the latter imported merchandise amounting to $689.62  million from Bangladesh in fiscal 2015-16, according to data from the Indian High Commission  in Dhaka.
The two  problems that we would like to see  as test cases relate to India's  anti-dumping duty on our  jute exports  and her  diffidence in accepting Bangladesh Standards and Testing (BSTI)'s certificates on food exports from Bangladesh .  We think these  are  pretty much addressable and solvable issues that have not only been volubly discussed time and time again but also remedies mooted; yet not acted upon!
Our PM took with her Indian counterpart the issue of anti-dumping duty on the natural fibre-based  products  from Bangladesh. She expressed confidence that the problem would be resolved. It better be a proof of  taking what we regard as a doable option towards filling in trade deficit not to an inconsiderable extent.   
India slapped anti-dumping duty ranging between $19 and $352 a tonne on January 5. As a result,'year on year , jute goods exports slumped  52 percent to 6,872 tonnes in January and 37 percent to 6,155 tonnes in February, according to data from Benapole customs.'
The importance of the potential for the Indian chunk buying can be hardly emphasized: Jute is the largest export earning sector of Bangladesh,next to garments and leather with India being one of  the biggest markets.
In this context, it is relevant to point out that the textile and jute ministries have reportedly listed 232  diversified  jute products to boost export of goods made of natural fibre.
A whole range of items like shopping bags ,curtains and cushion covers to table mats ,flower vases, storage items to indoor and outdoor gardening materials and life-style products are likely to be eligible for  20 per cent cash subsidy  against exports.
It is worthwhile to note that their production costs being high,  Bangladesh's jute goods  manufacturers  face tough competition in the global market, especially from  Indian exporters. So incentive can help our exporters whether it is in the shape of cash subsidy or in the form of Bangladesh Bank refinancing scheme for eco-friendly or green products.
Food or agro-processed exports  run into non-tariff difficulties when  certification  by Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution require to be re-certified by Indian labs. Consequently, our traders have to wait for a long time before they are cleared by the Indian customs. Apart from loss of time and the hassles endured, a heavy cost of business is incurred, especially  when you are dealing in perishable goods.
There must be some ways of overcoming  such  problems with technical cooperation that cannot be in short supply. After all,   Bangladesh's manufacturers and exporters are no push-overs; many of them are operating  globally by virtue of being on a learning curve -- and with humility!    
safarihi43@gmail.com


 

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