Home Diplomatic Trade potentials between Pak-Bangladesh untapped
Diplomatic - February 18, 2024

Trade potentials between Pak-Bangladesh untapped

Zarif Mahmud : The bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Pakistan was only $543.90 million in the fiscal year 2021-22. Out of the total trade, Bangladesh exported $50.54 million worth of goods to Pakistan, while its imports from Pakistan totaled $493.36 million.
Bangladesh and Pakistan together make up five percent of the world’s population. The market potential for exports and imports between these two Muslim countries is undoubtedly substantial.
However, bilateral trade between the two countries, with a combined population of 390 million, currently amounts to only $550 million. This is a very small share in the exports of both countries.
In 2021-22, about $50 million worth of goods went from Bangladesh to Pakistan. It has the potential to grow exponentially. The industrial sectors of both countries have experienced significant growth over the past 53 years.
The industrialists of the previous generation knew the details of each other’s people and markets.
India and China have been in the midst of a war frenzy for the past year. But in the meantime, they have done business worth about $109 billion in 2023. The example of Pakistan-India may be more relevant in this regard. The two countries exchange gunfire every week. There have been three full-scale wars between them. But in the meantime, they are selling products.
During the 2019-20 fiscal year, goods worth $300 million were exported from India to Pakistan. Last year it was almost four times more. Trade volumes between the two countries may fluctuate in the future. If Pakistan and India can maintain trade relations despite their politically delicate situation, Bangladesh can similarly engage with both countries. Building a market in South Asia is becoming more urgent for Bangladesh to escape the European-US political caution.
Pakistan has prioritized visa applications from Bangladeshis since 2019. Both countries can make it easier to boost export trade. This will increase the market in Pakistan of jute, tea, mango pulp, handicrafts, melamine, churi, home textiles, gur, pottery and tobacco of Bangladesh. At the same time, Pakistan could also increase the export of yarn, sugar, stone, ladies’ garments, 3-piece, spices, wood and especially dates. However, in order to make the current trade balance more favourable for Bangladesh, policy support from Pakistan is needed.
After a long break, Pakistan has already shown diplomatic interest in developing relations by expanding trade and investment in Bangladesh. They have to go further. Islamabad has a lot of responsibility to heal the historical wounds of Bangladesh. Many Pakistani policymakers wish for Bangladesh to move past the events of the 1971 Independence war and focus on the future. But it is not easy on the part of Bangladesh, it would be convenient in practical terms to solve the problems arising from the 1971 chapter quickly. Here Indian role is the main factor. Bangladesh politics is mostly influenced by India at the moment and the trade promotion is also depended on the will of India to Bangladesh.
It is high time for Pakistan to realize the situation. It is not to be avoided. Pakistan wants to increase trade relations with Bangladesh. The Canada-based International Forum for Rights and Security, a think tank, recently published a report on Bangladesh and Pakistan. It has shown there that Bangladesh is ahead in all areas of the index. Many Western economists have called on all countries to follow the Bangladesh model in the development of South Asia.
Bangladesh ex-Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has said that Pakistan is keen to boost trade and economic ties by maintaining good relations with Bangladesh. If they were removed, trade would increase further. Both countries have huge potential to increase trade and commerce. This opportunity can be used.
Munshi said Bangladesh’s trade with Pakistan was ongoing. Tea, pharmaceutical products, readymade garments, ceramic products, shoes, leather and jute products were exported from Bangladesh to Pakistan.
He said Pakistan had recently imposed anti-dumping on hydrogen peroxide exports. Such measures hinder the development of trade. Any existing problem can be solved through discussion. The problems can be identified and resolved at a meeting of the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) between the two countries.
Traders have an important role to play in increasing trade. Traders can increase trade by visiting each other’s countries. Necessary cooperation can be given in this case.
Pakistan High Commissioner Syed Ahmed Maroof said the Pakistani government wants to move forward by developing trade relations with Bangladesh. Opportunities abound to enhance trade and economic relations between the two countries. Ceramic products made in Bangladesh are being widely used in various government departments of Pakistan.
Syed Ahmed Maroof requested that visas for visits to Bangladesh be made easier for Pakistanis business purposes and that Dhaka-Karachi direct communication be introduced for the transportation of goods.
In fiscal 2021-2022, Bangladesh’s exports to Pakistan were worth $50.54 million and imports worth $543.90 million. If trade complexities are removed, the export of Bangladeshi products will increase. Bilateral trade between Pakistan and Bangladesh for the year 2020-21 was $721.67 million, Pakistani exports being $650.21 million and imports $71.45 million. Bangladesh is one of the top 10 export destinations for Pakistani products.
Pakistan’s trade with Bangladesh witnessed a surplus of 46.65 percent during the first six months of financial year (2022-23) as compared to the corresponding period of last year. The overall exports to Bangladesh were recorded at $399.408 million during July-December against exports of $274.246 million, showing growth of 45.63 percent, Meanwhile, on a year-on-year basis, exports during December 2022 increased 52.01 percent, from $54.433 million to $82.746 million. Similarly on month-on-month basis, imports rose by 14.38 percent during December 2022 in comparison with exports of $72.339 million in December 2021.
Bangladesh and Pakistan can profit by growing business relations. Pakistan can export cotton, yarn, fabric, leather, inorganic chemicals, vegetables and electronics (fan), halal foods to Bangladesh. There is a high demand for these products in Bangladesh. Additionally, Bangladesh can export a variety of goods including world-class medicines, apparel, agro-products, halal foods, ceramics, and more.
Pak-Bangladesh ties would be further boosted. Both sides can also work in promoting cooperation in the areas of science and technology, information technology, health care, digital cooperation, SME development, tourism, and so on. Bangladesh has vast experience in dealing with refugees, tackling climate change, countering terrorism, human resource development. Pakistan has experience in the sector of religious tourism. Both countries can exchange these advantages.
Despite some political challenges, the bilateral relationship is strengthening. Pakistan and Bangladesh should reap the benefits from growing their trade ties.
However, there is much potential in economic relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan. But this should be realized by both the governments for bilateral interest. Because Pakistan needs Bangladesh’s help and support in reviving their fragile economy and raising various regional issues at all international forums. Similarly, Bangladesh needs Pakistani help to balance the trade, power and politics. The sooner both governments realize this, the better it will be for both countries.

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