The country's exports to Australia declined following the introduction of the duty-and quota-free global textile trade.
However, exports to Canada increased by 140 per cent in the post-Multifibre Arrangement (MFA) period so far.
Australia and Canada offered duty-and quota-free access to products of the least developed countries (LDCs) in 2003.
The disclosure about exports to Australia and Canada was made at a seminar Sunday on "Increasing of Bilateral Trade between Australia and Bangladesh".
The seminar was held at a local hotel in the city Sunday. It was organised by Australia- Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ABCCI) and the Ministry of Commerce.
Commerce minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury was the chief guest at the seminar. Adviser to the Ministry of Commerce Barkat Ullah Bulu was present on the occasion as the special guest.
Among others, Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Lorraine Braker, Federation of the Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Mir Nasir Hossain, Vice-Chairman of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) Mir Shahabuddin, acting President of the ABCCI Obaidur Rahman and Secretary General of ABCCI Shakil Ahmed Khan addressed the seminar.
Australia's very stringent rules of origin (RoO) and other non-tariff barriers were identified as the major causes behind Bangladesh's poor exports to Australia.
In his key-note paper, Atiqur Rahman discussed in detail the current state of the Australia-Bangladesh bilateral trade.
He said the decline in exports to Australia is basically due to fall in exports of fertiliser. Production bottlenecks and higher local demand had been responsible for the fall in exports, he said.
He, however, informed the participants of the seminar that the exports of the readymade garments (RMG) sector and other products had increased after introduction of duty-free access.
About the local content requirement for eligibility of duty-free access of goods exported from LDCs to Australia, Atiq said that such a requirement under the Australian RoO for manufactured goods would be 50 per cent of the total factory cost. The source of the rest 50 per cent of the value addition can be from anywhere, he said.
He further said in cases where 50 per cent local content requirement under the RoO is not met, Bangladesh (or any other LDC) can still enjoy the facility of a 5.00 per cent import duty rebate -- a status allowed for developing countries as well as other LDCs.
The participants in the seminar expressed the view that Bangladesh's leather, leather goods of all sorts, frozen fish and shrimps, handicrafts like baskets, potteries, wall hangings etc., ceramic products, fertiliser products, cut flowers and artificial flowers 'have good marketing prospects' in Australia because of their quality.
The scope of RMG exports to Australia is also bright due to its high quality, comparable with that of other competitors.
The recent appreciation of Australian dollar and depreciation of Bangladesh taka have made exports more competitive, they noted.
The seminar recommended some measures to help boost Bangladeshi exports to Australia. Those include familiarisation of goods, organising Bangladesh trade shows in big cities of Australia, inviting Australian importers/ traders/wholesalers/ retailers, more visits by representatives of the local businesses to Australia.
Bilateral trade between the two countries is now heavily tilted in favour of Australia, the seminar was told.
Bangladesh imports 2.00 per cent of its total imports from Australia but it exports only 0.04 per cent of its total exports to Australia.
Bangladesh's exports to Australia amounted to US$ 35.83 million in last fiscal year (FY) 2004-05 when it imported goods worth $280.70 million from Australia.
In his address as the chief guest, Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain urged Australia to relax its RoO for facilitating wider market access for the Bangladeshi goods.
Lorraine Barker said Bangladeshi businessmen do generally lack in adequate information and awareness about the Australian market. More business delegations of Bangladesh can visit Australia to explore the market there, she added.
She said Australia provides a potential market for Bangladeshi entrepreneurs in textile and footwear sectors.