India, Bangladesh update sea trade pact

India, Bangladesh update sea trade pact

India and Bangladesh agreed to extend an earlier protocol dealing with “inland water transit and trade” cooperation between the two countries, with provision for automatic renewal in line with a proposed amendment to the Bangladesh-India trade agreement, the Indian Ministry of Shipping said in a written statement.

The declaration said the decision followed talks between Indian Shipping Secretary Rajeev Kumar and his Bangladesh counterpart Shafiq Alam Mehdi.

“It was also agreed between the two countries that a draft agreement for the regular movement of passenger and cruise vessels would be shared by India with Bangladesh through diplomatic channels,” the official press release said.

During talks, the two sides discussed the feasibility of including Bangladesh’s new cargo facility — Pangaon Container Terminal — as a port of call, and in response, Dhaka said that PCT along with other two terminals in the country could be added to the port coverage.

A joint venture between Chittagong Port Authority and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, PCT is designed to ease congestion at the port of Dhaka.

The other joint initiatives aimed at accelerating cross-border trade included the signing of a framework agreement on coastal shipping, the statement said. “It was also agreed to finalize the standard operating procedures (for coastal operations) in about two months’ time.”

“Both sides were confident that the deliberations would go a long way in the development of inland water transport and coastal shipping for enhancing connectivity and trade and commerce between the two countries.”

Though India and Bangladesh are neighbors, trade relations have not been given significant emphasis by either side in past years.  Available official statistics show two-way trade in fiscal year 2013-14, which ended in March 2014, totaled $6.6 billion, with exports from India amounting to $6.1 billion.