Explore new export markets, including Africa: experts

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Bangladesh needs to focus on explore new export destinations, including untapped markets in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Latin America and African regions, according to speakers at a webinar yesterday.

"We are trying to find new destinations, particularly in Africa, to increase garment and other exports through our missions abroad," said Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin at the function.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) organised the webinar, styled "Diversification of Bangladesh's Export Basket: Opportunities and Challenges."

The commerce ministry is dealing with the private sector to diversify Bangladesh's export basket and exploit unexplored markets such as for example Africa, he added.

Uddin went on to say that the united states cannot easily secure free or preferential trade agreements before it leaves minimal developed country grouping in 2026.

So, Bangladesh should give attention to regional trade because it is cost-effective even though it cannot enjoy full benefits under agreement on the South Asian Free Trade Area due to political issues.

"We already are conducting a feasibility study regarding free and preferential trade agreements through the tariff commission," he said.

Nepal and Sri Lanka are ready to sign a preferential trade agreement with Bangladesh but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is triggering delays, he said.

"Later, we will sign handles Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia," the commerce secretary added.

Uddin urged the business enterprise community to stay optimistic about Bangladesh's export potential following graduation in 2026 despite the fact that shipments are projected to shrink by $5 to $6 billion.

"The reason being there is scope to improve export of other products such as leather, pharma, ceramic, and so forth," he said.

At the event, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said Bangladesh will face several challenges following graduation and the federal government is attempting to minimise these hurdles by securing trade benefits.

He said the federal government worked to introduce 19 new export products within the last ten years.

The commerce ministry can be dealing with the World Bank on a project to increase exports from four sectors, which are leather goods, plastics, it and light engineering.

Under this initiative, training will be provided to educated youths to bring innovation in design and also to ensure quality.

"Institutional education must bring our standards up-to-date," Munshi said.

AHM Ahsan, vice chairman of the Export Promotion Bureau, said the African region is a common customs union that may be the gateway to 290 million new customers.

If something enters an associate country, it can simply happen to be other countries in the continent without facing customs issues, Ahsan said.

So, Bangladesh should make the required efforts to sign preferential trade agreements or free trade agreements with African countries, he added.

Syed Almas Kabir, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software & Information Services (BASIS), said skills development of youth is needed to utilise demographic dividends.

He also known as for more tax benefits to attract foreign direct investment.

In his presentation, ICAB CEO Shubhashish Bose said that although Bangladesh's geographic location is perfect for global trade because of its convenient usage of international sea and air routes, the united states includes a negative balance of trade.

The six major exportable items -- woven garments, knit garments, leather and leather products, jute and jute goods, agricultural products, and frozen foods -- accounted for 92 per cent of the country's total export for fiscal 2019-20.

The neighborhood IT, pharmaceutical, light engineering, ceramic sectors alongside the oceangoing ship building industry need more attention to bag more forex, Bose said.

Moderated by Adeeb Hossain Khan, first president of ICAB, the webinar was also addressed by MH Khusru, the incumbent president of ICAB; Md Mostaque Hassan, chairman of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation; Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association; and Saiful Islam, president of the Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturers & Exporters Association.