India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission Recommends Removal of Trade Barriers
29 September 2020
The sixth meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission held virtually on 29 September 2020 recommended taking greater measures to mutually enhance trade and investment between the two countries. Recommendations include removal of all forms of barriers to trade, and harmonization of standards and mutual recognition of certificates—important elements of trade facilitation.
The duty free access granted by India to Bangladesh products under South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) helped Bangladesh’s exports to India surpass the $1 billion mark in 2018-2019, noted the meeting. Improving trade facilitation between the two nations could further boost Bangladesh’s utilization of SAFTA concessions. Furthermore, India urged Bangladesh to renew the accreditation of the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution for continued acceptance of test certificates.
Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh and Dr. S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India, who co-chaired the meeting, tasked their officials to work together closely to avoid disruption of supply chains. They also noted transport priorities to ensure unhindered trade flow, including (i) resumption of two-way trade through the land ports, and (ii) optimizing use of the four trans-border railway connections and inland and coastal waterways.
Other matters discussed in the meeting include:
- Initiation of ‘air travel bubble’ flights for certain categories of travelers;
- Resumption of regular travel through land ports at the earliest;
- Formation of a ‘High Level Monitoring Committee’ to be headed by the Secretary of the Economic Relations Division (Bangladesh) and the High Commissioner of India in Dhaka to conduct regular reviews of progress of implementation of the Lines of Credit projects between the two countries;
- Cooperation in the power and energy sectors. Both sides agreeing to expedite the implementation of projects in these sectors; and
- Holding of a virtual Prime Minister-level Summit in December 2020, which will coincide with the commencement of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence and establishment of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.
Meeting lauds bilateral cooperation during the pandemic
The meeting also expressed satisfaction over the two countries’ current state of bilateral relations. They noted the remarkable progress in the implementation of various decisions taken during the last JCC meeting held in New Delhi in February 2019, and the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi in October 2019.
The Ministers expressed satisfaction over the sustained engagement between the two countries amidst the health crisis, leading to success in the following initiatives:
- First trial movement of cargo from Kolkata to India’s northeastern region through the roads and waterways of Bangladesh;
- Signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade; and
- Export of goods from India using rail, including container and parcel trains.
Foreign Minister Momen reiterated Bangladesh’s commitment to support India in strengthening connectivity in the region to create a win-win situation for both economies.
Importance of regional cooperation underscored
The meeting also noted the increased importance of leveraging the resources of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) given the regional and global economic scenarios following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
More aspects of bilateral relations were discussed in the meeting. Read the full Joint Statement.