September 21, 2023
DHAKA – Both Bangladesh and Japan want to start formal negotiations within this year for signing an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), with the finalisation of guidelines for negotiations set for this week, a government official said.
Senior Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh is flying to Japan today to finalise the document for the start of negotiations for the EPA, which is expected to come into effect before 2026, the year that Bangladesh is set to graduate out of the group of least developed countries.
The countries will finalise a joint study of the EPA after vetting by both sides, Ghosh said.
In the joint study, Bangladesh focused mainly on market access to Japan and Japanese investment in high-tech industries in Bangladesh.
The senior secretary is also scheduled to hold meetings with senior officials of the ministry of economy, trade and industry, the ministry of foreign affairs, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) in this regard, Ghosh also said.
In April this year, Dhaka and Tokyo signed a memorandum of understanding on the proposed EPA during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to Japan.
The EPA includes not only tariff, but also other important components like trade, investment and services.
To take the matter forward, a second round of talks was held in Dhaka when Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister of economy, trade and industry of Japan, visited in July this year.
Bangladesh’s main target for the EPA is to enjoy zero-duty benefits on shipments of garment items, leather and leather goods, electronics and other products.
This is because Bangladesh’s export basket has fewer products compared to Japan’s diversified portfolio.
Bangladesh also wants the removal of the average 18 percent duty levied on all shipments to Japan.
During his visit to Dhaka, Nishimura said Bangladesh had the potential to attract Japanese factories looking to relocate as entrepreneurs from the island nation were diversifying their locations along the Southeast Asia and Asean regions.
Currently, nearly 350 Japanese companies are operating in Bangladesh, with more than $380 million invested in the country.
Of the total companies, 85 percent want Bangladesh and Japan to sign the EPA to increase bilateral trade and investment.
In 2022, Bangladesh received a record of more than $100 million in investment from Japan. The number of Japanese companies in Bangladesh has roughly quadrupled over the past decade.
Japan and India are two export destinations in Asia where Bangladesh’s export earnings reached $2 billion.