ISSN 2330-717X

Thailand And Bangladesh Can Benefit From Growing Trade Ties – OpEd

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Bangladesh thinks that Thailand is a reliable and credible partner and friend as Bangladesh has enjoyed strong bilateral relations with Thailand since independence. Bangladesh and Thailand both share a common regional platform like BIMSTEC.

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Trade relations between Bangladesh and Thailand have been very strong in recent years, especially in the field of commodities. As Thailand became more developed, many Bangladeshi students went there to study science. Bangladesh has called on Thailand to participate more in the economic field of Bangladesh. According to the Ministry of Finance of Bangladesh, Thailand can contribute more to the economy of Bangladesh.

According to Bangladeshi media outfits, Thailand is keen to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh to boost up bilateral trade. On May 2, 2010, it was announced that Thailand would host a four-day trade fair in Bangladesh. The event was attended by 48 Thai companies (for the development of trade relations between the two countries). The trade between Thailand and Bangladesh has grown to about $ 980.41 US Dollars in 2019. (According to Bangkok Post)

According to Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, Thailand and Bangladesh signed a trade agreement on 22 August. The trade volume between Thailand and Bangladesh has steadily increased. Initiatives are being taken to strengthen bilateral economic ties with Thailand. In this case, Bangladesh is asked to invest in Thailand. On the other hand, Thailand is taking steps to increase exports to this country. Export trade has always been in favor of Thailand. Thailand-Bangladesh both built Bangladesh-Thailand Joint Trade Committee (JTC) to address the bilateral trade issues. Both sides had agreed to set a target of $2 billion in 2020, in the JTC meeting held in Bangkok. 

JTC meeting was held in Bangkok in January 2020, stakeholders emphasize on promoting trade between the two countries and focused on agriculture, fisheries, livestock, health services and transportation. Thailand considers Bangladesh as an important strategic partner in terms of investment, trade and transportation. Bangladesh was Thailand’s third-largest trading partner in South Asia in 2018.

Meanwhile, a statement from oec.world said that in the last fiscal year 2018-2019, Bangladesh exported goods worth 74.8 million US dollars to Thailand, while importing goods worth 973 million US dollars. Bangladesh exports leather and leather products, medicines, marine fish and other animal products, paper and paper pulp, soap, articles of apparel, plastic products and rubber products, electrical & electronic equipment, made textile articles, products of animal origin, vegetable textile fibers, fish and crustaceans, etc. Bangladesh has signed MoU to import rice from Thailand. On the other hand, electrical equipment, electronics, iron and steel, organic chemical products, cement, cereals, plastics and articles thereof, man-made staple fibers, sugar and sugar confectionary, machinery and mechanical appliances, cotton and cotton fabrics, synthetic fiber and cotton are imported from Thailand. Bangladeshi products have the opportunity to increase exports to Thailand. It is hoped that it will be possible to increase the export of all these products of Bangladesh through discussion in the meeting.

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It is learned that there is a demand for jute and jute products of Bangladesh and other agricultural products in the country. If the market for Bangladeshi products is expanded in Thailand, the bilateral trade between the two countries will be balanced. Proposals to increase connectivity with Bangladesh, especially the work of connecting the port of Ranong in Thailand with the port of Chittagong are also being considered. Both countries can reconsider to simplify the visa process.

Besides increasing exports, the country’s investment was sought. Every year about one and a half lakh Bangladeshis go to the country for medical and trade purposes. Bangladeshis have a big role to play in the development of Thailand’s tourism industry. But compared to that, Thai investment has not come to this country. Not only that, getting a visa is now a new embarrassment. Trade deficit is not in favor of Bangladesh, trade inequality is increasing every year. Stakeholders believe that Thai investment is needed to reduce trade inequality. To this end, the current government is considering allocating land to establish a special economic zone for Thailand.

It is learned that duty free facilities are sought from Thailand, including medicines, leather goods, jute and jute textile fabrics, textiles made of jute yarn, knitted and woven shirts, T-shirts, knitted garments, women’s towels, cotton shirts.  Leather sacks are significant. The country exports only 60 million US Dollars’ worth of ready-made garments (ovens) every year. However, the country has an annual clothing demand of about 40-42 million dollars. China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia export huge quantities of garments to the country every year with duty free facilities. Bangladesh does not get this benefit in exports. Bangladesh and Thailand should sign a bilateral FTA to boost up trade for ensuring mutual interest. 

According to BEPZA and BEZA of Bangladesh, Bangladesh is building 100 Free Economic Zones for foreign investors.  One Economic Zone is allocated for Thai investors. Bangladesh is giving ‘One Stop Service’ for foreign investors. Trade, connectivity, energy and development cooperation, Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy, counter-terrorism, trade in goods, services and investments are some sectors for ensuring mutual benefits. Thailand can invest and establish an automotive assembly plant in Bangladesh so that the latter can re-export the automotive parts and components to Thailand. Thai investment in tourism, Buddhist Circuit tourism, health, hospitality, food processing, taking advantage of the SEZs and IT Park are some are of potentials.

Bangladesh is going to a be rising South Asian economic miracle. There are many potentials in economic sectors in Bangladesh. Thai businesses and investors can utilize this opportunity for their business interest. On the other hands, tourism sector of Thailand, Technical education sector may be the strong sectors in this regard. Thailand can get access to South Asian markets through Nepal, Bhutan, North East India, Tibet region of China, Central Asia, Middle Asia, Africa easily. Cox’s Bazar airport, Matarbari deep Seaport may a potential for Thailand for maritime trade with South Asia. Pharmaceuticals and chemicals, chemical products, leather and leather products, frozen fish, raw jute and jute goods, ceramic tableware, knitwear and woven garments, tea etc. have good prospects in Thai market. Thai products are getting popular in Bangladesh with the expansion of the local economy.

Thailand-Myanmar-Bangladesh connectivity can boost the trade relations between two countries. Thailand is an economic superstar in South East Asia. The Thai government is developing the standard of the livelihood of Thai People. Bangladesh and Thailand may be a ‘Hub’ between South Asia and South East Asia. 

Pathik Hasan

Pathik Hasan is a Dhaka-based NGO activist, researcher and freelance writer on contemporary international issues whose work has been published in many local and international publications. Academic background: BSS (Peace and Conflict Studies) and MSS (International Relations) under the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at pathikhasan1[email protected]

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