Bangladesh needs to make the best use of the third Bimstec Summit to reach concrete decisions in settling pending issues related to connectivity with Myanmar to take the bilateral trade between the two neighboring countries to a new height, suggests a top trade body.
The high potential of bilateral trade with Myanmar has remained untapped for many hurdles — lack of shipping and road connectivity.
Myanmar is hosting the four-day third Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) summit that begins on Saturday in its capital Naypidaw. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will attend the summit.
“BIMSTEC Summit brings an opportunity to address those issues through discussions at the top level,” SM Nurul Hoque, vice president of Bangladesh-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BMCCI) told UNB.
The issues related to connectivity are being discussed since 2010 but there has been no marked progress other than reestablishing the Dhaka-Yangon air connectivity, he said.
“At least, the protocol on establishing coastal shipping line that remained pending for long needs to be signed without further delay,” said Hoque adding that the Commerce Ministry is expecting to do it by March.
The Chamber body thinks Bangladesh will greatly benefit from the coastal shipping line as import of basic commodities will become cheaper, easier and quicker.
The bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar stands at $100 million annually and both the countries hope to take the volume to $500 million with the introduction of the shipping line. The two neighbours target $1 billion bilateral trade volume by 2020.
Bangladesh mainly imports food items like rice, lentils and fish and timber from Myanmar, while exports cement, pharmaceuticals, condensed milk and electric cables.
Responding to a question, the BMCCI leader said both the governments were in negotiations to import hydroelectricity from Myanmar at a very cheaper rate. “This plan needs to be executed through mutual discussion for electricity import that will add to national grid.”
He said the BMCCI proposed launching a flight on Dhaka-Chittagong-Yangon-Bangkok route though Biman Bangladesh Airlines operates two flights a week between Dhaka and Yangon.
“Dhaka-Chittagong-Yangon-Bangkok route will be more sustainable and beneficial for the businesses; and it’ll be economically viable for Biman,” Hoque said.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed already said the trade issue will dominate the third summit of head of states and governments of the BIMSTEC. “Trade is the number one agenda for the summit.”
He said a bright prospect has emerged to enhance trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the bilateral trade will continue to rise if the connectivity is ensured.
He said the process of setting up Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor is at the final stage. “Once it’s set up, trade volume will increase significantly.”
Bangladesh exported goods worth US$ 13.67 million to Myanmar, while imported goods worth $84 million during the fiscal year 2012-13.
Source: UNB Connect