Free Trade Zones

Thailand and Bangladesh can benefit from growing trade ties – OpEd – Eurasia Review

Bangladesh believes that Thailand is a reliable and credible partner and friend because Bangladesh has had strong bilateral relations with Thailand since independence. Both Bangladesh and Thailand share a common regional platform like BIMSTEC.

Trade relations between Bangladesh and Thailand have been very strong in recent years, especially in the field of raw materials. As Thailand developed, many Bangladeshi students traveled there to study science. Bangladesh called on Thailand to participate more in the economic domain of Bangladesh. According to the Ministry of Finance of Bangladesh, Thailand can contribute more to the economy of Bangladesh.

According to Bangladeshi media, Thailand wants to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh to boost bilateral trade. On May 2, 2010, it was announced that Thailand would host a four-day trade fair in Bangladesh. The event brought together 48 Thai companies (for the development of trade relations between the two countries). Trade between Thailand and Bangladesh reached around US$980.41 in 2019. (According to Bangkok Post)

According to the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, Thailand and Bangladesh signed a trade agreement on August 22. The volume of trade between Thailand and Bangladesh has steadily increased. Initiatives are being taken to strengthen bilateral economic ties with Thailand. In this case, Bangladesh is invited to invest in Thailand. On the other hand, Thailand is taking steps to increase exports to that country. Export trade has always been in favor of Thailand. Both Thailand and Bangladesh have set up a Bangladesh-Thailand Joint Trade Committee (JTC) to resolve bilateral trade issues. The two sides had agreed to set a target of $2 billion in 2020, during the JTC meeting held in Bangkok.

The JTC meeting was held in Bangkok in January 2020, stakeholders focused on promoting trade between the two countries and focused on agriculture, fisheries, livestock, services health and transport. Thailand regards Bangladesh as an important strategic partner in terms of investment, trade and transport. Bangladesh was Thailand’s third largest trading partner in South Asia in 2018.

Meanwhile, a statement from indicates that in the last fiscal year 2018-2019, Bangladesh exported goods worth US$74.8 million to Thailand, while importing goods worth US$973 million. Bangladesh exports leather and leather products, medicines, sea fish and other animal products, paper and pulp, soap, garments, plastic products and rubber, electrical and electronic equipment, manufactured textile articles, products of animal origin, vegetable textile fibres, fish and shellfish, etc. Bangladesh has signed a memorandum of understanding to import rice from Thailand. On the other hand, electrical equipment, electronics, iron and steel, organic chemical products, cement, cereals, plastic materials and articles thereof, synthetic or artificial staple fibres, sugar and confectionery, machinery and mechanical appliances, cotton and cotton fabrics, synthetic fibers and cotton are imported from Thailand. Bangladeshi products have the potential to increase exports to Thailand. It is hoped that it will be possible to increase the export of all these products from Bangladesh through discussions at the meeting.

It is learned that there is a demand for jute and jute products from Bangladesh and other agricultural products in the country. If the market for Bangladeshi products is expanded in Thailand, the bilateral trade between the two countries will be balanced. Proposals to increase connectivity with Bangladesh, in particular the work to connect the port of Ranong in Thailand with the port of Chittagong are also under study. Both countries may reconsider simplifying the visa process.

In addition to increased exports, investment from the country has been sought. Every year, around one and a half million Bangladeshis travel to the country for medical and business purposes. Bangladeshis have a big role to play in the development of Thailand’s tourism industry. But compared to this, Thai investments have not come to this country. Moreover, getting a visa is now a new embarrassment. The trade deficit is not in favor of Bangladesh, trade inequality is increasing every year. Stakeholders believe that Thai investment is necessary to reduce trade inequality. To this end, the current government is considering allocating land to establish a special economic zone for Thailand.

It is learned that duty-free facilities are sought in Thailand, including medicines, leather goods, jute and jute textile fabrics, jute yarn textiles, knitted and woven shirts, T-shirts, knitted clothes, women’s towels, cotton shirts. Leather bags are important. The country exports only US$60 million worth of ready-made garments (kilns) each year. However, the country has an annual clothing demand of around $40-42 million. China, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia export huge amounts of garments to the country with duty-free facilities every year. Bangladesh does not enjoy this export advantage. Bangladesh and Thailand should sign a bilateral FTA to boost trade to ensure mutual benefit.

According to BEPZA and BEZA from Bangladesh, Bangladesh is building 100 free economic zones for foreign investors. An economic zone is assigned to Thai investors. Bangladesh offers a “one-stop service” to foreign investors. Trade, connectivity, energy and development cooperation, Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy, counter-terrorism, trade in goods, services and investments are some of the sectors that guarantee mutual benefits . Thailand can invest and establish an automobile assembly plant in Bangladesh so that the latter can re-export automobile parts and components to Thailand. Thai investment in tourism, Buddhist circuit tourism, healthcare, hospitality, food processing, leveraging SEZs and IT park are some of the potentials.

Bangladesh is set to become a booming South Asian economic miracle. There are many potentials in the economic sectors in Bangladesh. Thai companies and investors can use this opportunity for their business interests. On the other hand, the tourism sector in Thailand, the technical education sector can be the strong sectors in this regard. Thailand can easily access South Asian markets via Nepal, Bhutan, Northeast India, Tibet region in China, Central Asia, Central Asia and Africa. Cox’s Bazar airport, Matarbari deep seaport can be a potential for Thailand for maritime trade with South Asia. Pharmaceuticals and chemicals, chemicals, leather and leather products, frozen fish, raw jute and jute products, ceramic tableware, knitwear and woven garments, tea, etc. have good prospects in the Thai market. Thai products are becoming popular in Bangladesh with the expansion of the local economy.

Thailand-Myanmar-Bangladesh connectivity can boost trade relations between two countries. Thailand is an economic superstar in Southeast Asia. The Thai government develops the standard of living of the Thai people. Bangladesh and Thailand can be a “hub” between South Asia and Southeast Asia.