To enhance the export of Bangladeshi products and services, the country will have to explore untapped markets in the Commonwealth of Independent States (ex-Soviet republics), Latin America and Africa instead of depending on the European Union and the US.
Bangladesh has the least market share in Africa, but many opportunities await there. There are 16 countries in the Southern African Development Community. The bloc is a common customs union that could be a gateway to a market of almost 300 million people.
If a product enters one member country, it can easily travel to other countries without facing customs problems. So efforts are necessary to conclude a preferential trading agreement or free trade agreements with these African countries.
Experts and stakeholders made the comments Saturday at the webinar "Diversification of Bangladesh's Export Basket: Opportunities and Challenges" organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB).
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said at the event: "Export earnings have big effects on our investment, GDP growth, real exchange rate, unemployment, government revenue and expenditure. So, export diversification is the highest priority area of our government."
Although the geographic location of Bangladesh is ideal for global trade, the country is facing a trade deficit of $15 billion, ICAB CEO Shubhashish Bose said. In fact, the country’s trade deficit widened to $17.86 billion in 2020 from $15.8 billion ion 2019.
"The country's six major export items – woven garments, knit garments, leather and leather products, jute and jute goods, agricultural products, frozen foods – constituted 92% of its export during the fiscal year 2019-20," he added. "However, the IT sector, pharmaceutical products, oceangoing shipbuilding industry, light engineering sector ceramic and porcelain wares are thrust sectors and deserve more attention for earning more foreign currency."