Bangladesh should focus on strengthening trade ties with the Asia-Pacific regional economic blocs, which have become the center of global trade and commerce, in order to strengthen the country’s foreign trade and meet the challenges of the world. post-PMA graduation, business leaders and economists observed.

Exports to these countries have been much lower than imports and Bangladesh has not been able to attract investment from countries in the region, they said on Friday during a webinar titled “Asia and the Pacific and Bangladesh: exploit economic potential “.

In addition, Bangladesh does not have any bilateral or multilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) in the region, they said at the event jointly organized by the Ministry of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of Industries of Dhaka (DCCI) on the 4th day of Bangladesh. 2021 Trade and Investment Summit.

They recommended that Bangladesh work more on policy reforms, product and market diversification, simplification of trade processes, a competitive tax and tariff regime, and infrastructure development to harness related economic potentials.

DCCI President Rizwan Rahman, who moderated the webinar, said: “Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and the Asia-Pacific region hovered around $ 36 billion in fiscal year 20, including exports. of Bangladesh were only $ 5 billion.

He suggested that rules of origin be relaxed by the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APT) for the growth of exports of least developed countries (LDCs). More bilateral and multilateral agreements must be concluded to take advantage of the untapped markets of Asian countries.

“Bangladesh remains in favor of regional integration and pushing for more Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) and FTAs ​​to cope with possible export growth after its exit. LDC status, ”he added.

Nihad Kabir, President of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MCCI), said: “We are reluctant to sign an FTA due to the loss of revenue.

She said, “Foreign investors want to know how long it takes to resolve disputes. In Singapore, disputes are resolved in 60 days, while in Bangladesh, it takes 1,500 days.

She added that the tax system is a big problem. Tax compliance is more important than tax rates. Due to this problem, traders from Dhaka and Chattogram are moving to other regions.

“To start a business you have to get a hundred approvals, you have to wait months,” she said.

She also raised issues including tariff and non-tariff barriers, regulatory transparency, energy and electricity issues, and lack of quality education.

Syed Nasim Manzur, Managing Director of Apex Footwear Ltd, said the economy of the Asia-Pacific region will dominate the global economy in the near future. He cited an example from the leather industry and said that of the top 10 market leaders in the global footwear industry, six are from Asia.

“We need to look to Asia for foreign direct investment (FDI),” he added.

He also stressed the need to link the economy of Bangladesh to regional blocs and strengthen trade relations, bringing them to a new level. He stressed that the National Revenue Council needs to be overhauled.

He also focused on timely implementation of various policies, simplifying rules, improving logistics services, including at airports, and maintaining confidence in traders.

Ito Naoki, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh, said his country sees Bangladesh as the China-plus destination and called on Bangladesh not to shy away from the FTA.

He informed the webinar that the Japanese company Mitsubishi Motor Company has already completed a feasibility study for a CKD factory in Bangladesh. The Japanese economic zone of Araihazar will soon be open to investment and will host 100 companies.

The Japanese Ambassador also focused on the recognition of Telegraphic Transfers (TT) clearance.

Dr Masrur Reaz, President of Policy Exchange of Bangladesh, said: “Regional blocs or trade blocs play a catalytic role in strengthening businesses. China, India, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and a few other Asian countries are experiencing tremendous growth and there is an opportunity for Bangladesh to be part of it. “

Mr. Tofazzel Hossain Miah, Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, who was present as the main guest, said: “The graduation from LDCs is a sign of the proven macroeconomic strength and resilience of Bangladesh as well as of our preparation. Bangladesh is located in a strategic location close to two big economies like China and India and it is an opportunity for us.Moreover, our domestic market is also a very lucrative and attractive destination for investment.

He added that Bangladesh has generous and competitive incentive programs in South Asia.

Fatima Yasmin, secretary of the economic relations division of the Ministry of Finance, said: “Bangladesh is proposing a liberal investment regime in South Asia to attract FDI. Bangladesh is in discussions with 10 other countries to sign PTAs or FTAs ​​and two will be signed soon.

Dr Rajan Sudesh Ratna, Deputy Chief and Senior Economic Affairs Officer, UNESCAP (South and Southwest Asia Office), suggested streamlining the processes for starting a new business, improving the ease of doing business. and an easy certification process. He also said that Bangladesh can start negotiations to maintain existing facilities for a few more years, even after its withdrawal from LDCs.

He said trade costs in Asia are higher than in Europe because we are lagging behind on infrastructure.

Abdul Matlub Ahmad, President of the Nitol Niloy Group, spoke during the webinar among others.

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