Bangladesh bid for free labour entry puts FTA in doubt

Foreign workers from Bangladesh wait at an airport carpark turned into an immigration depot in Sepang September 20, 2007.—Reuters picForeign workers from Bangladesh wait at an airport carpark turned into an immigration depot in Sepang September 20, 2007.—Reuters picNEW DELHI, Aug 10 — The signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) between Malaysia and Bangladesh now hangs in the balance following the tagging of quota-free workers’ entry to the Malaysian market by Bangladesh as a pre-condition for such a FTA.

The Financial Express reported that Bangladesh’s Ministry of Commerce sent a detailed proposal last month to Malaysia’s International Trade and Industry Ministry, asking the ministry to allow quota-free entry facilities for Bangladesh workers to the Malaysian market before the FTA signing.

“The Malaysian government has not responded to the proposal,” the newspaper reported, quoting Commerce Ministry secretary Ghulam Hossain.

“The decision is pending with the Malaysian International Trade and Industry Ministry. We’ve provided them our detailed plan for the FTA signing,” he said.

The newspaper said the Bangladeshi government took nearly two years to work on the proposal and send it to the Malaysian government, reflecting its active interest to sign the deal.

The proposal was sent to Malaysia after a study was conducted by the Bangladesh Tariff Commission and the National Board of Revenue.

The current bilateral trade balance is heavily tilted in Malaysia’s favour, as Bangladesh imports many consumer items like palm oil, Hossain said.

“If the labour issue is not included in the agreement, the trade balance will go up further in Malaysia’s favour,” he said, adding that Bangladesh was keen to clinch the deal in a “win-win” situation. Bangladesh exported goods worth US$80 million (RM256 million) to Malaysia in fiscal year 2011-12 and imported merchandise worth US$1.54 billion in the same period.

The FTA signing with Malaysia was mooted in 2004 following the growing ties between Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka and expanding trade relations between the two friendly nations, with the trade balance heavily in Malaysia’s favour.

The FTA’s prime objective is to trim the trade imbalance against Bangladesh in the two-way trade between the two countries, the newspaper reported. — Bernama



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