Customs officials from the two countries met to remove barriers that restrict trade

Customs: Bangladesh levying a five percent duty on gypsum imported from Bhutan was one of the main issues for discussion in the first meeting of customs officials from Bhutan and Bangladesh yesterday in Thimphu.

Under the bilateral trade agreement between the two countries, gypsum falls under the exempted category.

“The Bhutanese delegation requested Bangladesh delegation to address the matter on the priority basis with appropriate authorities, to which Bangladesh delegation agreed to the request,” a press release from the finance ministry stated.

The two countries treat each other as important trading partners, whose bilateral trade agreement allows 90 products from Bangladesh free of duty. Bangladesh allows 18 products from Bhutan free of duty.

The meeting also discussed removing of barriers that impede the bilateral trade.

In his opening remark, revenue and customs director Yonten Namgyal said if there is no proper understanding and interpretation of the rules and regulations framed by the government, a lot of non-tariff barriers to trade come into play.

Yonten Namgyal said if non-tariff barriers are removed, business people could move their goods faster, which would enhance trade.

The meeting agreed to hold frequent interactions in the spirit of cooperation and assistance between the customs administrations of the two countries.

The meeting comes at a time when Bangladesh has undertaken a number of customs reform initiatives.

Leader of delegation from Bangladesh and Member of Customs, International Trade, MD Firoz Shah Alam, said Bangladesh is now upgrading its Customs Act in conformity with the World Customs Organisation, the revised Kyoto Convention and WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The meeting also discussed sharing of data on import and export of goods between the two countries.

In 2014, Bhutan imported goods worth Nu169.56M (million) from Bangladesh while it’s exports to the latter was Nu 1.661B (billion).

MD Firoz Shah Alam said though trade between the two countries began with the independence of Bangladesh, the bilateral trade has grown more rapidly over the recent years.

He said the signing of the motor vehicle agreement recently was a significant achievement for the neighbouring countries. The agreement allows free movement of vehicles among the countries, which he said, provides a major boost for trade in the SAARC region.

“Now it’s time for government officials to harvest on the seeds our political leaders have sown,” he said. “We shall work hard to resolve the existing issues and explore new areas of cooperation.”

The meeting was held as per the agreement reached during the commerce secretary level meeting in Thimphu on April 10 last year.

MB Subba