Bangladesh delegation agrees to resolve issues related to export of limestone from Bhutan soon

While Bhutan’s exports to Bangladesh have been increasing rapidly over the years, increase in imports from Bangladesh has been meager.

This was highlighted by the Bangladeshi delegation during the third meeting of the joint working group of customs, which began in Thimphu yesterday.

Head of the visiting delegation, Member of Bangladesh’s National Board of Revenue, Khondakar Muhammad Aminur Rahman, said that the annual volume of bilateral trade was less than USD 40 million (M), which according to him was far below the potential. He said the areas of cooperation and commodities of trade are in abundance in both countries.

According to him, the growth of import from Bangladesh was meager and did not commensurate with its trade with other countries. “I would urge Bhutanese traders to further import our world winning ready-made garment products, pharmaceuticals which are quite competitive in terms of quality and price,” the member said.

Bhutan’s export to Bangladesh increased by about Nu 580 million (M) in 2016 from 2015, according to trade statistics. But imports from Bangladesh increased by about Nu 49 million only during the same period.

In absolute terms, Bhutan’s export to Bangladesh increased from Nu 1.8 billion to Nu 2.397 billion. Imports from Bangladesh increased from Nu 169M to Nu 218M.

Considering that Bangladesh is an important trading partner to Bhutan, the joint working group of customs was initiated in 2015 to resolve customs issues that hinder trade at the point of entry and exit.

According to a press release from the department of revenue and customs, the meeting discussed issues related to export of limestone powder and crushed construction stone from Bhutan, where the Bangladeshis delegation agreed to resolve the issues at the earliest.

The meeting will also discuss and resolve customs related issues to facilitate trade, commerce and investment and also further promote the friendly relation between the two countries. The meeting ends today.

Led by the director of the Department of Revenue and Customs, Yonten Namgyel, the Bhutanese delegation comprised officials from the ministries of economic affairs, finance and foreign affairs. The director thanked Bangladeshi delegation for coming to Bhutan.

Khondakar Muhammad Aminur Rahman said that relations between Bhutan and Bangladesh have developed steadily since their independence in 1971. “We never forget that Bhutan is the first country to recognise independent Bangladesh. Since then, our friendship has been growing day by day,” he said.

He said that the last eight years have seen remarkable dynamism in the Bangladesh-Bhutan relationship under the present leadership of both the countries. During this time, he said that exchanges at the highest level have infused further dynamism into the bilateral relations.

The Member said that the two countries have reached a broad understanding in multiple areas including connectivity, trade, power and water resources management among other areas of cooperation.

He said that the signing of the motor vehicle agreement in Thimphu in 2015 between four friendly neighbouring countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal – was an important milestone for the four countries. The agreement, he said, was seen as a major boost to the growth of trade in the sub-region.

On the customs front, the head of the Bangladeshi delegation said that his country and Bhutan are energetic members of the World Customs Organisation where the customs fraternity is thriving to further facilitate legitimate trade and protect communities from financial as well as health-related hazards.

The customs officials of both the countries, the member said, have a strong role to play in reducing time and cost of trade between the two countries. He said that the two countries should focus on trade facilitation, customs modernisation, use of information and communications technology, enhance communications between customs officials, and invest in infrastructure of customs stations.

MB Subba