Trade policy framing organization languishes in limbo


The structure and capacity of the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC) should be strengthened as Bangladesh is at a crossroads to discuss and negotiate Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) and Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with its trading partners, said business leaders, experts and policy makers.

The shortage of qualified personnel, such as researchers and business analysts, as well as below-average incentives, prevent the Commission from providing its services at the expected level.

The main responsibilities of the commission include issuing recommendations on measures relating to the protection of national industries, creating a competitive environment for industrial production, ensuring optimum utilization of industrial resources, promoting exporting domestic products, taking measures to prevent dumping or unfair practices in the import and sale of foreign products, and improving market access for domestic industries through bilateral agreements, regional and multilateral, according to the officials concerned.

Md Abdul Karim, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, speaking to Dhaka Tribune on Monday, emphasized strengthening the BTTC as Bangladesh is eager to multiply preferential trade agreements and free trade agreements.

Karim, also a former commerce secretary, said the BTTC should be made up of bureaucrats, trade policy experts, researchers and stakeholders.

The government should also give importance to the BTTC’s recommendations, observations and opinions on trade and trade policy-making, he added.

Karim, also a former trade counselor at the Bangladesh Mission in Brussels, said the role of the BTTC is of utmost importance as Bangladesh is expected to graduate from LDC graduation in a few years.

Mostafa Abid Khan, a former BTTC member, told the Dhaka Tribune that its structure should be changed by incorporating competent and professional trade experts in the commission, along with bureaucrats.

University professors, researchers and business analysts with broad knowledge of international trade, legal expertise and deep understanding of the competitiveness of local industries should be included in the commission, he advised.

Khan also said the benefits and incentives for BTTC’s research managers should be increased because its non-executive managers are not being properly promoted to desired positions.

Even after retirement, BTTC officials only receive gratuities, not pensions, he said.

The good operational capacity of the BTTC will help Bangladesh achieve better results with its negotiating partners in international trade, he added.

DCCI Chairman Rizwan Rahman said Bangladesh should conduct national-level research with relevant stakeholders to determine the impacts and opportunities of LDC graduation.

After LDC withdrawal, Bangladesh will lose WTO special and differential treatment and face an additional 6-7 percent tariff on exports, he added.

“We should aim for reciprocity-oriented FTAs, PTAs and RTAs to support export growth, develop economic diplomacy for trade expansion and local and regional economic cooperation,” Rahman added.

BGMEA President Faruque Hassan also stressed the need to build trade negotiation skills.

“We need to work on building our internal capacity in trade negotiation and economic diplomacy,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

Hassan also mentioned that trade competitiveness was going to be crucial in the coming days, especially for exiting LDCs like Bangladesh.

“We need to use support programs like UNCDF, LDCF, UN Technology Bank for LDCs, etc. We need to make the most of these options.”

Focusing on FTAs, he said: “Although we continue to engage in multilateral trading systems, given the increase in regional and bilateral FTAs, it will be very difficult for Bangladesh to cope with its competitors if we can’t make our way in that direction. ”

According to the General Economic Division (GED), under the Eighth Five-Year Plan of the Planning Commission (July 2020-June 2025), the Ministry of Commerce has already completed its assessment to initiate FTA/PTA negotiations with Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia and United States of America.

It has undertaken another study to examine the impact of signing an FTA/PTA with Lebanon.

The ministry has also launched a program to conduct the joint study on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India.

Currently, four Border Haats have been set up at the border points of Bangladesh and India to ensure the availability of essential commodities to marginalized people living in the surrounding remote areas, while another 16 Border Haats are expected to be opened over the course of of the 8FYP period.


In June 2019, the cabinet had given its final nod to the Bangladesh Tariff Commission (Amendment) Bill 2019 aimed at expanding the business in line with the evolving global and domestic trading systems of the organization, established under a 1973 resolution.

Key changes incorporated into the bill included expanding the jurisdiction of the tariff commission, requiring officials to maintain secrecy, and allowing the hiring of consultants and research assistants.

The bill proposed to rename the organization BTTC as its functions defined in the Bangladesh Tariff Commission Act 1992 were being expanded.

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