India has again urged Bangladesh to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) to help bridge the widening gap in trade balance between the two countries.
India is ready to sign an FTA with Bangladesh in view of the positive outcome of a Delhi-Colombo FTA, Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty said in Dhaka on Sunday, adding that "a sense of mistrust still remains an obstacle to inking such a pact" between Bangladesh and India, The Daily Star reported on Monday.
The envoy lamented that there had been no progress after the latest negotiations on FTA between the two countries in 2002. Chakravarty emphasised that the Bangladesh government "needed to be more serious" in its attempts to sign the FTA.
He made his comments at the Ficci's (Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce and Industry) regular monthly luncheon meeting as the guest of honour. He also asked Bangladesh to reopen land ports on its side and facilitate border trade with India's northeast, a ready market for Bangladeshi goods.
India is expected to clear the import of up to eight million pieces of apparel from Bangladesh at the government's next cabinet meeting, he said.
This would be in keeping a pledge given last year by India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to help Bangladesh bridge the widening balance of bilateral trade gap.
He admitted to "bureaucratic delays" in clearing the proposal for garment export.
Brushing aside a wrong concept about the usage of Indian land as a transit route between Bangladesh and Nepal, the Indian envoy told the audience in the Ficci meeting: "Both Bangladesh and Nepal are now enjoying such a facility".
He said the two-way trade has been growing fast and has crossed $2.5 billion this year against $2.1 billion the previous year, marking around 21 percent growth.
India is presently Bangladesh's largest export destination in the developing world, with exports worth over $290 million in fiscal 2006-07.
Chakravarty said Bangladesh's exports to India grew more than 480 percent to reach $290 million in fiscal 2006-07 from $62 million in fiscal 2000-01, while its global exports grew by only 104 percent in the 5-year period.
He suggested both Bangladesh and India should move forward with proposals for improving road, rail, air, shipping and inland water links. "Mizoram has a 318 km long border with Bangladesh without any trade opening. We have been requesting Bangladesh for opening the Demagiri-Thegamikh as well as Sabroom-Ramgarh routes for some time," Chakravarty said.
He hoped that construction of Agartala-Akhaura rail link and access to New Mooring Terminal at Chittagong Port would be useful in providing additional capacity for transportation of goods and linking Chittagong to the northeastern states of India.