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PTA between Bangladesh, Bhutan likely to be signed by September

DIGEST-ENG-03-09-2020-Bhutan

Signing of a preferential trade agreement (PTA) between Bangladesh and Bhutan has been delayed further as two neighbouring countries are yet to get approval to this effect, officials said.

The country's first PTA with Bhutan was supposed to be signed jointly by the commerce ministers of the two countries by August 30, 2020 to boost bilateral trade, they added.

Bhutan is yet to get approval from its cabinet for signing the PTA. Bangladesh has also sent its necessary documents to the cabinet division regarding approval, a high official of the commerce ministry said.

He expressed the hope that the preferential trade deal between the two countries is likely to be signed by September, 2020. "The PTA text is ready," he mentioned.

The commerce ministers of both the countries are likely to jointly sign the deal. It would be held physically or through virtual platform, he mentioned.

The two countries' high officials agreed to sign the deal as they talked in a daylong videoconference held on June 16, 2020.

A ten-member delegation of the commerce ministry of Bangladesh headed by Additional Secretary Sharifa Khan and a 14-member delegation of Bhutan headed by Director General of the Department of Trade Sonam Tenzin took part in the conference.

The PTA text, product list and other related issues were finalised in the conference, according to a press release of the commerce ministry.

The meeting decided to send the agreement documents to the law ministry and the cabinet division for vetting and approval respectively.

Under the deal, some 100 Bangladeshi products will enjoy duty-free access to the Bhutanese market.

On the other, some 34 Bhutanese items will also enjoy duty-free access to the Bangladesh market.

The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries is gradually expanding.

The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries stood at US$57.90 million in the fiscal year 2018-19. It was only US$26.52 million in the FY 2012-13.

Apparels, food items, plastics, pharmaceuticals, furniture and electrical products are being exported from Bangladesh.

Generally, Bangladesh imports chemicals, pulps, bolder stones, fruits, vegetable, etc, the press release mentioned.

When contacted, commerce secretary Md. Jafar Uddin said, "Signing of PTA with Bhutan will be remarkable. It will be the first PTA in 50years. It is now in its last stage."

"After approval from the cabinet, we will fix day/time for ceremonial signing of the PTA soon," he added.