April 24, 2018 / 11:48 AM / a month ago

Bangladesh official says no rush for free trade pact with China

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh is in no rush to sign a free trade agreement with China, a senior Bangladeshi trade official said on Tuesday, though Chinese officials said it would help the poor South Asian country cut its deficit with its largest trading partner.

China is expected to host talks in June, having first floated the idea of an FTA in 2016. Bangladesh does not have an FTA with any trade partner.

“We have no intention to sign such an agreement right now and we are not in a hurry, but we may continue to discuss this,” Shubhashish Bose, secretary of the commerce ministry, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Bangladesh mainly imports machinery, cotton, consumer products and chemical and chemical products from China, while exporting jute, jute products, readymade garments and processed leather the other way.

Li Guangjun, economic and commercial counselor at the China’s embassy in Dhaka, said an agreement would help Bangladesh reduce its deficit, as exports to China only accounted for $1 billion of the $16 billion annual trade between the two countries.

“We would like to see more exports from Bangladesh and for that it needs to become more competitive,” Li told Reuters.

“We believe if Bangladesh signs a free trade agreement, it would then reduce this huge trade gap,” he said, adding that it would lead to more Chinese investment in Bangladesh, and more diversity in Bangladesh’s exports.

Both officials said studies were needed to weigh the pros and cons.

Reporting By Serajul Quadir; Editing by Nick Macfie

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