Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)- Dhaka will start fresh negotiations with New Delhi and Colombo for striking separate free trade agreement with India and Sri Lanka this year to reduce the country’s ballooning trade gap with them.
“We are going to start negotiations for entering into FTAs with the two neighbouring countries this year,” Commerce Secretary Firoz Ahmed was quoted by the New Age, a local newspaper, as saying.

India was showing keen interest for striking FTA with Bangladesh despite SAPTA, a trade pact among eight SAARC countries, which failed to bring expected result in enhancing trade.

The secretary also said that the start of FTA negotiations were imperative as the regional trade pact of SAPTA could not yield expected result in reducing the country’s trade gap with its major trade partner India.

Among the SAARC countries, India is the largest trade partner of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh exported goods worth $358.08 million against its import of items worth $3.39b from that country in 2007-08 fiscal year, making the two-way trade worth $3.74 billion. If the smuggled goods were taken into account, the figure was likely to become double.

Bangladesh has the longest 4,096km land border with India. The unofficial trading between the two countries was not recorded in the book, but it impacted the country’s economy seriously.
India had proposed to lock into FTA with Bangladesh in 2002 and two rounds of talk between the two countries were held in 2003 and 2004 without making any progress.

Apart from this, Bangladesh also held several inconclusive talks with Sri Lanka to enter into an FTA.

The country has also a plan to strike FTA with another major SAARC country Pakistan.

However, the FTA negotiation between Dhaka and Islamabad will start after the talks with India and Sri Lanka, Mr. Ahmed added.

BBN/SS/SI/AD-15August09-2:05 am (BST)