Dhaka,Thimphu agree to boost trade, commerce, connectivity
Five bilateral instruments signed
Bangladesh and Bhutan have agreed to work together to enhance the livelihood of the people of the two friendly countries through increasing trade and commerce and establishing close connectivity.
Expressing their willingness to work together to combat poverty, diseases and fight against all adverse situations together, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bhutanese Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering observed that "connectivity is productivity and in line with that sea ports and road and railways connectivity will get top priority in future talks between the two countries," said Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque while briefing journalists after the meeting at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
The foreign Secretary said Bangladesh and Bhutan signed five bilateral instruments to enhance cooperation on inland waterways, health, agriculture, tourism sectors and Public
Administration Training Centres.
"The instruments were signed after official talks between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering at the Prime Minister's office in the capital. The two prime ministers witnessed the signing ceremony," Shahidul Haque added.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh side at the talks, while the Bhutanese delegation was led by visiting Bhutanese Premier Dr Lotay Tshering, he said.
Shahidul described Bangladesh ties with Bhutan to be "deep and historic" as Thimphu was the first foreign capital to recognize Bangladesh on December 6 in 1971.
"This relationship is deeper than any other relations and our ties have improved to a great extent over the years . . . the relations are being deepened and widened gradually," he said.
"Bhutan has sought duty and quota free access of its 16 products to Bangladesh market, while Bangladesh has sought such access of its 10 goods to the Bhutanese market during the official talks of the two countries held today," Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said while briefing reporters after the talks at the Prime Minister's Office here Saturday morning. Prime Minister's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim was present at the briefing.
These instruments are expected to enhance cooperation on cargo transportation, cooperation in health, agriculture and tourism sectors and cooperation between the Public Administration Training Centres of the two countries for exchange of faculty members as well as training and capacity building.
Following the meeting two MoUs have been signed between the two countries to enhance Agricultural cooperation and cooperation in establishing a Tourism Council for the development of tourism in Bangladesh and Bhutan.
During the meeting, Bangladesh and Bhutan have agreed in principle to work on allowing duty free (DF) and quota free (QF) access of a number of their products to each other's market for mutual interests.
According to the foreign secretary, the Prime Minister told her Bhutanese counterpart that Dhaka would consider the matter of duty and quota free access of 16 Bhutanese products to Bangladesh market.
"A positive discussion was held at today's talks and it's hoped that it will be done as the issue is in the discussion for a long time," Shahidul Haque said.
The issue, he said, was also discussed when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Bhutan.
Shahidul said the trade figures between the two countries increased after the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Bhutan in 2017 and since then the people-to-people contact in the field of tourism has been boosted as well.
He said the relations between the two countries are not only being deepened, the areas in different sectors including trade, commerce and tourism are also being widened.
The foreign secretary said the two sides discussed the regional electricity trade as talks were already underway to produce hydropower in Bhutan and marketing that electricity in the region while Bangladesh was keen to invest in hydroelectricity in Bhutan.
Replying to a question, he said, there is a big initiative in the region which is called Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative for road and rail connectivity.
The foreign secretary said though all countries signed the agreement, it is yet to be ratified by Bhutan parliament. "The new Bhutan government said the bill regarding the initiative will be placed afresh at its Upper Senate for discussion and they are very much hopeful of passage of the bill," he said.
The connectivity between the four countries will be strengthened further if the bill is passed by the Bhutanese parliament, he said.