Bangladesh has the potential to more than
double its trade with the South Asian countries by reducing manmade trade
barriers while the increased regional trade can accelerate the country's
growth and create more jobs for men and women, says a new report of World
The report, however, says trade within the South Asia can grow three
times, from US$ 23 billion to US$ 67 billion, by reducing manmade trade
The report has documented the gaps between current and potential trade in
the South Asia and provided a roadmap for deepening regional trade. It
identified four critical barriers to regional trade: tariffs and para
tariffs, real and perceived non-tariff barriers, connectivity costs, and a
broader trust deficit.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith today unveiled the report on A Glass Half
Full: The Promise of Regional Trade in South Asian at a city hotel.
WB Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal Qimiao, Policy
Research Institute (PRI) Chairman Zaidi Sattar and Lead Economist and
Coordinator of the WB South Asian Regional Integration Sanjay Kathuria, among
other, were present on the occasion.
Speaking at the function, Muhith said the government is working sincerely
to improve connectivity between Bangladesh and other South Asian countries as
it is the main sources of increasing trade among the South Asian nations.
He said regional trade will be increased by removing tariff and non-tariff
barriers and the government continues talks with neighbouring countries to
pave ways to remove the barriers.
Qimiao Fan said Bangladesh can become an economic powerhouse by deepening
regional and global integration in trade, connectivity, energy and
For increased regional trade, Bangladesh needs to focus on improving its
trade policy regime, which currently has a strong anti-export bias, he said.
Sanjay Kathuria said: Trust between countries is in short supply in the
South Asia. Border haats between Bangladesh and India, aimed at recapturing
the once thriving economic and cultural relationships are now changing cross-
Haats are not just about trade. They are about using trade to foster
people-to-people connect and trust. South Asian policymakers can aim to
reinforce the virtuous circle between trade and trust the experience of
Bangladesh-India border haats offer several useful insights in this context,
The report said the costs of trade are much higher within South Asia
compared to other regions since the average tariff in the South Asia is more
than double the world average.
The South Asian countries have greater protection for imports from within
the region than from the rest of the world. Countries impose high para
tariffs, and more than one-third of the intraregional trade falls under sen-
sitive lists, comprising goods not included under South Asia Free Trade Area
(SAFTA)'s tariff liberalisation.
In the case of Bangladesh, nearly 46 percent of its imports from South
Asia fall under sensitive lists.
The countries are yet to reap the benefit of shared land borders. This
arises from deficiencies in border regimes, including limited information
flows on nontariff measures, and inadequate use of modern clearance
procedures. Limited air connectivity makes regional trade and investment
The report recommended targeting sensitive lists and para tariffs to
enable real progress on SAFTA and called for a multi-pronged effort towards
addressing non-tariff barriers, focusing on information flows, procedures,
The report also suggested that policymakers draw lessons from the India-
Sri Lanka air services liberalisation experience, where liberalisation was
gradual and incremental, but policy persistence paid off. Connectivity is
another key enabler for robust regional cooperation in the South Asia.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)