Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to West Bengal underlined the close relations that India shares with its eastern neighbor. Trade was an issue that particularly figured in the discussions with the Bangladesh pointing out the non-trade barriers imposed by India and India stating that the regulatory requirements imposed by Bangladesh are among the factors that impede trade. Keeping the momentum of the bilateral talks, India has pushed Bangladesh for keeping its land ports open to facilitate easy entry of products from the north-eastern states. The aim is to boost exports from a region that is in need of more connectivity and development.
Indian commerce minister Suresh Prabhu in a letter to his Bangladesh counterpart, Tofail Ahmed as reported by The Financial Express wrote, “In my opinion, easing of port restrictions at the key trading points would be extremely helpful…this will help integrate the local population on both sides of the border for mutual benefit.”
In the letter, Prabhu took note of the restrictions in place at almost all the border trading points on the Bangladesh side and resulting trade imbalance. He acknowledged that the concern expressed by Bangladesh over allowing new items to come in through the land ports is valid, given the limited resources, infrastructure, security, and testing facilities are available there.
He referred to the joint-statement if the prime ministers of both countries issued in April 2017 and stressed on the need for removing all trade barriers, including that of port restrictions, to facilitate trade. He urged the state governments of India’s north-east region to pursue the removal of port restrictions.
India which is the second largest sourcing point for Bangladesh wants to raise its export through every land port or border trading point in the country. Currently, it has targeted raising exports from the remote areas of north-east to help farmers and the industry in the region to benefit from international trade with Bangladesh.
Prabhu, in his letter suggested expediting the infrastructural development work of the Benapole land port for the speedy entry of trucks from India. He also underlined the need for early widening of the connecting road and the optimal utilisation of the warehouses.
According to the latest data of Bangladesh Bank, in the 2016-17 fiscal year, Bangladesh exports to India were worth $672.40 million, while the imports from India were worth an astounding $6.16 billion. It is also estimated that goods worth more than $6 billion come to Bangladesh through informal channels through the border areas.