Bangladesh, India to sign "border haat" agreement

"We expect to eventually sign the 'border haat' deal by this month," Commerce Minister Faruque Khan told PTI as he is set to leave here for New Delhi on October 20 on a three day tour.

Khan said, a MoU and a related deal on border haat modalities were to be signed during his visit, paving ways for launching the makeshift frontier bazaars initially at two points of the 4,156 kilometres of the porous borders of the two countries.

Bangladesh's imports from India in 2008-2009 were USD 2.841 billion and exports to India were USD 276.58 million. Total bilateral trade in stood at USD 3.117 billion.

According the draft an individual will not be able to trade above USD 50 at the bazaar using both Bangladeshi and Indian currencies while farm and home made items produced in 10 kilometre radius of border bazaar will be allowed to trade in the haats, to be set up within 75 meters of the frontier.

Items to be traded at the bazaars included farm products, handicrafts,  horticulture, fresh and dry fish, wooden and cane furniture, utensils, farming tools and home-made clothing such as lunghi, gamcha would be eligible for border  trading.

A committee comprising government officials and representatives of border guards of both the countries would run and oversee the operations of the haats.

He said the bilateral trade and economy were likely to dominate the talks with his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma while Bangladesh would reiterate its call for waiving duty and removal of non-tariff barriers on its apparel exports. It will also be relaxing a universal Indian ban on cotton export for Bangladesh and reconsidering a decision on stamping seals on jute bags from the country.

"We expect all the outstanding bilateral trade related issues will be resolved during the meeting in the light of the joint communiqué issued during our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India," in January this year, Khan said.

Bangladesh has been asking India either to give 61 products duty-free access or a complete duty waiver to all garments products.

Under a 2008 bilateral trade agreement India allowed duty-free access of eight million pieces of garment products but the business sources said almost 70 per cent of the quantity was already exported and the rests were expected to be exhausted by the year-end.

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