An important meeting of the Bangladesh-India Joint Working Group on Trade has been deferred by at least two months, apparently leaving on the backburner some issues vital for expansion of bilateral economic cooperation.
The meeting is now likely to take place in New Delhi by the end of April.
"The meeting would be held on April 27-28", a senior commerce ministry official told the UNB about the tentative schedule of the joint secretary-level fourth meeting of the group.
Its third meeting held in Dhaka on August 1-2 last year had decided to hold the fourth meeting in February for sorting out a large number of pending issues.
The official said the meeting would review the progress of bilateral trade-supportive measures agreed upon at the third meeting.
Broad-based issues -- the group had decided to push forward to boost bilateral trade -- were non-tariff barriers, modern banking facilities, particu larly in the northeastern states of India, and accreditation of testing laboratories from both sides and infrastructure development of Land Customs Stations.
"The progress may not have taken place as per expectation, but there's always a movement", said the official.
Different sub-groups held their respective meeting and would report to the fourth meeting of the Joint Working Group, the official added.
Officials said the meetings of joint sub-groups on Banking and Customs have already discussed the problems in their interim meetings while Indian technical committees on testing visited three laboratories in Bangladesh.
Another technical team on textiles would also visit Bangladesh immediately to examine testing facilities of textile products in Bangladesh under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) technical assistance programme, they said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce has reviewed the progress of Bangladesh-India trade relations with stakeholders, comprising private sector, last month.
The decisions of the meeting would be taken up at the fourth meeting of the group.
The private sector has been requested to identify through intensive study the problems they face in exporting products to India.
The meeting also decided to remind the Indian side of the need for developing infrastructure on their side of the land-customs stations (LCS) so that the export-import consignments could be handled smoothly.
Bangladesh would also explain to India of the imperative to modernise their banking system in their northeastern states to facilitate trade transactions.
The meeting also decided to seek duty-free market access for more products of Bangladesh to the Indian market, officials said.
They said Bangladesh's export to India increased significantly, to US$ 144 million during the last fiscal year (2004-05) from only $ 89 million in 2003-04, due to duty-free access of some items.
However, official figures show Bangladesh's imports from India also rose significantly to account for $ 2.0 billion in 2004-05 from $ 1.6 billion in 2003-04.
As a result, the trade deficit Bangladesh suffered with the neighbour increased to $ 1.8 billion in 2004-05 from $ 1.5 billion in the previous fiscal.