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Commerce Ministry, US Embassy team up to boost agro-trade

  • Published at 05:24 pm October 6th, 2021
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi delivers his speech at the Bangladesh Trade Facilitation project launch on October 6, 2021, at Hotel InterContinental Dhaka Courtesy

The $27 million project looks to increase Bangladesh’s ability to expand and diversify its exports, ensure the safety and quality of imported food items, and improve its institutional systems for agricultural trade

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi on Wednesday launched the Bangladesh Trade Facilitation initiative — a new agriculture and economic development project funded by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture. 

The event was held at the Crystal Ballroom of the Hotel InterContinental Dhaka.

The $27 million project is going to support Bangladesh in implementing the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in the areas of simplifying and automating import and export processes, strengthening risk-based clearance processes, improving notification provisions, developing the capacity and testing procedures of laboratories, and enhancing the cold chain system for facilitating trade of perishable goods.

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Land O’Lakes Venture37, a US-based not-for-profit economic and agricultural development organization is going to implement the project, reads a press release.

It is bringing together the agencies supervising and providing trade services, which include the WTO Cell and the National Trade Facilitation Committee of the Ministry of Commerce; National Board of Revenue (NBR); Ministry of Agriculture; Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock; the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI); Plant Quarantine Wing of Department of Agricultural Extension; Department of Agricultural Marketing; Bangladesh Food Safety Authority; the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, and other key private sector stakeholders.  

The goal is to increase Bangladesh’s ability to expand and diversify its exports, ensure the safety and quality of imported food items, and improve its institutional systems for agricultural trade.

Speaking as the chief guest at the event, the commerce minister emphasized the government's commitment to ensure self-sufficiency in food production, supply safe and nutritious food as well as commercialize the agriculture sector, making it a profitable venture for poor farmers.

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller also joined the inauguration ceremony. 

Noting the investment from the American people, Miller confirmed the US government’s support for Bangladesh’s reform measures and promotion of a business-friendly trade environment.  

“This project will facilitate and incentivize investment, construction, and the operation of new cold storage facilities to improve and expand on Bangladesh’s refrigerated logistics network,” he said.

The Ministry of Commerce coordinates TFA implementation for the government of Bangladesh, and Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh explained that the WTO Cell of the ministry would work closely with Land O’Lakes Venture37.  

He stated that he expected the government’s trade agencies will also collaborate to implement the important WTO TFA measures and that the USDA project will help integrate systems to do so. 

He emphasized partnerships, saying: “I also expect that the project will focus on building partnerships between the public and private sectors and other development partners.”

Recognizing the strong economic ties between the US and Bangladesh, Abdul Kasem Khan, chairperson of Business Initiative Leading Development (BUILD), congratulated Minister Munshi and Ambassador Miller for creating opportunities for agro-food industries.  

Khan stated that importing and exporting businesses stand to gain a lot from more efficient trade procedures. 

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“Businesses demand predictable and harmonized processes and highly value transparency.  Global trade opportunities and investments in strategic industries will play a significantly important role in Bangladesh’s further growth aspiration to become an upper-middle-income and a developed country,” he said.

The Bangladesh Trade Facilitation project is a five-year initiative that will promote policy reform and provide technical, logistical, and technological assistance to Bangladeshi agencies and agricultural and food industry stakeholders. 

The goal is to make importing and exporting agricultural products more efficient. 

Each project activity addresses one or more WTO TFA measures and the objectives are aligned with the country’s Eighth Five-Year Plan’s goal of promoting prosperity and fostering inclusiveness.

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