Experts want BD to tap potentials of Asean Plus initiative


UNB, Dhaka :
Bangladesh has enormous opportunities to get benefited economically through joining Asean Plus initiative but needs proper policy to make the best use of ‘multifarious interests’ in Asean bloc, experts say.
Integration with the ten-nation bloc – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – will help expand Bangladesh’s export market and bring in more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and subsequently the country will hugely benefit economically, they say.
The member-states of the Asean are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam and Bangladesh can join the bloc through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement (FTA) scheme of the Asean member-states and its FTA partners.
Countries like Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand are involved in Asean through the RCEP initiative. By 2025, Asia’s trade volume is expected to double – led by China, India and Indonesia – and by 2050 Asia will comprise half of global GDP.
“It’ll create scope for Bangladesh to get benefited economically and will help strengthen our trade ties with Asean member-states through economic integration,” economist Dr Mustafa K Mujeri told UNB.
The economist, also the Director General of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), however, said things depend on proper utilisation of the opportunities that will emerge.
“The most important thing is that we need a suitable policy so that the opportunities can properly be seized,” Dr Mujeri said adding that infrastructure shortcomings will need to be addressed first.
Bangladesh has multidimensional ‘offensive and defensive interests’ within the Asean countries, said economist Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem.
“There’s a demand for Bangladeshi products in Asean market. Joining the Asean bloc can help Bangladesh expand its market there if Bangladesh gets tariff benefits like other Asean member states or special trade benefit as LDC (least developed country),” he said explaining Bangladesh’s ‘offensive interest’.
Dr Moazzem, an additional research director at the civil society think tank – Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), also said Bangladesh can be benefited through its engagement in service sector, especially in the area of manpower export.
“In a broad sense, it’ll bring the opportunity for boosting investment in Bangladesh and outbound trade as part of regional supply chain that will prevail within the group,” he added.
Asked about Bangladesh’s ‘defensive interest’, the economist said since India has got connected with Asean and is getting trade benefit, Bangladesh will also have an opportunity to get equal benefit on the export of similar kind of products and the problem Bangladesh is facing will be removed. “Thus, a defensive interest will create for Bangladesh.”
Explaining further on ‘defensive interest, Dr Moazzem said Bangladesh will get a chance to take part ‘more actively’ in other ongoing ‘trade initiatives’ in this region through getting involved with Asean.
When contacted, an official at the Commerce Ministry said the government has been looking into the matter with ‘high importance’ to know how Bangladesh can be benefited through joining the Asean Plus initiative.
Currently, Asean is negotiating with several countries to include them in the Asean Plus initiative.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Bank governor Dr Atiur Rahman has recently written to the Commerce Ministry to know Bangladesh’s position regarding joining in the RCEP, a free trade agreement (FTA) scheme of the 10 Asean member-states and its FTA partners as chief representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Dhaka conveyed him about the opportunity.
The governor will leave Dhaka for Japan on March 18 and will discuss the matter with Japan government if he gets government’s observation, said an official at the central bank.
The governor is expected get feedback from the Commerce Ministry within next couple of days, said the official.
Bangladesh will automatically get involved with other countries if Bangladesh joins the RCEP and that will bring in trade benefit for Bangladesh.
Through joining RCEP, Bangladesh will ultimately be involved with Asean and enjoy various trade and economic benefits from the member-states of the regional body.
The RCEP aims to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership establishing an open trade and investment environment in the region to facilitate the expansion of trade and investment and contribute to global economic growth and development.