DHAKA: Thailand has agreed to export up to 1.0 million tonnes of rice to Bangladesh in the next five years under government-to-government (G2G) arrangement.
Of the total quantity, some 150,000 tonnes of rice will be available this year.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) to this effect is expected to be signed today (Thursday).
The agreement came on Wednesday, the first day of the two-day 4th Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting between Bangladesh and Thailand, which is being held at a city hotel after a gap of four years.
Sources close to the meeting said the Commerce Minister of Thailand and the Food Minister of Bangladesh will sign the MoU.
They said though the rice will be supplied every time on the basis of prevailing market price, the MoU will help Bangladesh import rice at fair price under G2G arrangement.
“The MoU will actually be a political understanding between the governments of the two countries to get rice timely,” said Bangladesh Ambassador to Thailand Saida Tasneem, who attended the senior official level JTC meeting on Wednesday.
Commerce Secretary Shubhashish Bose and Director General of the Department of Trade Negotiation Boonyarit Kalayanamit led Bangladesh and Thailand sides respectively at the first day’s of JTC meeting.
The ministerial level JTC meeting will be held on the concluding day today (Thursday) with Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and Thai Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn leading their respective teams.
High-level delegations comprising representatives of different ministries and private sectors of both the countries attended Wednesday’s meeting that also discussed the scopes of increasing trade and investment between the two countries.
Sources said the meeting discussed about the scope of signing a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA), but agreed to set new target of doubling trade between the two countries by 2021 from US $ 995 million to $ 1.8 billion.
The Bangladesh ambassador to Thailand said though bilateral trade between Dhaka and Bangkok increased during the last two years, Bangladesh’s export to Thailand dropped significantly after 2012.
Ms Tasneem said the 4th JTC meeting is likely to help reach the bilateral trade target set by the two countries by focusing on trade-related issues, including comprehensive FTA.
“We are looking towards more intensive trade and investment cooperation with Thailand,” she told the FE.
A Commerce Ministry official, attending the meeting, said the Thai side has shown more interest in FTA, but the Bangladesh side was for conducting a feasibility study first in this regard.
As Bangladesh enjoys duty-free facilities as a Least Developed Country, he said a study is needed first to assess benefits of FTA with Thailand, he added.
The Bangladesh side, however, placed a list of 36 products to get duty-free quota-free (DFQF) facility from Thailand.
Besides, the two sides agreed to set a common standard of certification and will sign an MoU between two agencies concerned.
Though Bangladesh’s share in the $ 995 million trade recorded last year is insignificant, the country was able to export new products including seeds, pharmaceutical items, readymade garments and fertilisers to Thailand following a trade expo last year.
Both Bangladesh and Thailand are the 3rd largest bilateral trade partners among countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South Asia.
Thailand exports mainly poly-raising, clinkers, machineries and cosmetics, toiletry and food items to Bangladesh.
Thailand provides DFQF access to nearly 5,000 products of Bangladesh. But the latter has hardly any of those to export.
Bangladesh’s fresh list of DFQF items was placed as the Thai government had announced revision of its list this year.