MB Subba

Bhutan and Bangladesh yesterday signed a preferential trade agreement (PTA) that is expected to boost bilateral trade between the two countries.

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma and Bangladesh’s Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi signed the agreement on behalf of their respective governments.

The signing of PTA marked the 50th anniversary of the recognition of Bangladesh by Bhutan. Bhutan was the first country to recognise the independence of Bangladesh on December 6, 1971.

A press release from the foreign ministry stated that with the signing of the PTA, Bhutan will enjoy duty free export on 16 products in addition to the already existing 18 products to Bangladesh.

Likewise, 10 more products from Bangladesh will enjoy duty free export to Bhutan, in addition to the already 90 existing products. Currently, Bangladesh-Bhutan trade operates under the Bilateral Trade Agreement signed in 1980.

Goods that will get duty-free to Bangladesh include orange, apple, ginger, fruit juice, milk, natural honey, wheat or meslin flour, homogenized preparations of jams, fruit jellies, marmalades, food preparations of soybeans, mineral water, wheat bran, quartzite, cement clinker, limestone, wooden particle boards, and wooden furniture.

Meanwhile, goods from Bangladesh that Bhutan will be given duty-free access include baby clothes and clothing accessories, garment, jute and jute goods, leather and leather goods, dry cell battery fan, watch, potato, condensed milk, cement, toothbrush, plywood, particle board, mineral and carbonated water, green tea, orange juice, pineapple juice, and guava juice among others.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina virtually graced the event. Speaking virtually at the event, Lyonchhen conveyed greetings and prayers from His Majesty The King and the people of Bhutan to the prime minister  and people of Bangladesh.

He said that the ceremony comes at a time when Bangladesh celebrates two historic events—the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence.

He said Bhutan has always placed high importance on bilateral relations. “Despite all the challenges, Bangladesh has shown immense support to Bhutan. This is a demonstration of the high importance the government of Bangladesh places to Bhutan.”

He said that the MoU on the use of inland waterways and riverine routes signed between the two countries during the Bangladeshi prime Minister’s visit to Bhutan and the SOP signed during his visit to Dhaka have paved the way for enhancing trade routes. “With the signing of the PTA today, I hope the rest of the formalities will be completed sooner,” said Lyonchhen.

“I would like to thank the government of Bangladesh for your support in the establishment of the Third International Internet Gateway for Bhutan. This will ensure reliability and affordability of internet and communications for us. I am optimistic that the Gateway will be launched soon,” he said.

The two countries will organise a series of events throughout the coming year to commemorate the special occasion, according to a press release from the foreign ministry.

The event was also attended by Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji and foreign minister of Bangladesh Dr. A.K Abdul Momen.