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December 30, 2014

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China set to offer FTA to Bangladesh

CHINA has offered to sign a free trade agreement with Bangladesh to try to narrow a growing trade gap, the Bangladeshi foreign minister said yesterday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the proposal during talks with his counterpart in Dhaka in a move which local exporters described as a “huge development.”

“The Chinese minister has offered to sign a free trade agreement,” Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said.

“The Chinese government is well aware of the existing trade gap and they have assured us they want to minimize it,” Ali added after meeting Wang.

Ali did not say whether Bangladesh would sign up to any such agreement.

There was no comment from the Chinese minister, who wrapped up his three-day visit to Bangladesh yesterday. He met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the main opposition leader Khaleda Zia.

Two-way trade between Dhaka and Beijing soared to US$8.3 billion in the financial year ending in June, but exports from Bangladesh accounted for less than a tenth of the total.

Bangladesh is a signatory to several multilateral free trade agreements but has yet to sign any bilateral FTA.

The country’s garment industry welcomed the Chinese offer, saying it could “massively boost” exports to the world’s second-largest economy. Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest garment exporter after China.

“This FTA offer from China is a huge development,” said Shahidullah Azim, vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association which represents the country’s 4,500 textile factories.


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