Bangladesh was India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia, he said

India is looking to advance the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with Bangladesh, Union Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday.

Pointing out that Bangladesh was India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia, he said the two countries had scaled up their trade and economic engagement as collaborators and not competitors since 2014.

Addressing the “Inaugural session of India-Bangladesh Stakeholder’s meet”, organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Goyal said the India-Bangladesh bilateral relationship was reaching new heights due to the efforts of both the Prime Ministers - Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina.

“Our friendship has not only stood the test of time but has now blossomed into multifaceted, mutually enriching relationship with deep collaboration in trade, investment, food security & technology,” said Shri Goyal, in his address through video conference.

He pointed out that Vaccine Maitree reaffirmed the Mitrata (friendship) with over one crore vaccines being supplied from India.

"We have also extended three lines of credit for $8 bn to Bangladesh, the largest concessional credit given by India to any single country. Indo-Bangladesh CEO Forum to promote investments is another testimony to our friendship. We are also developing two Indian Economic Zones at Mirsarai and Mongla in Bangladesh," the minister added.

According to Goyal, the Textile Industry Forum between us constituted to facilitate cooperation in the Textiles sector was also yielding results.

"We have over 350 Indian companies in Bangladesh now," the Commerce & Industry Minister said.

Goyal listed four focus areas for strengthening India-Bangladesh relationship:

1. Uninterrupted Supply chain is need of the hour: As H.E. Sheikh Hasina said, “Connectivity is productivity”; despite COVID-19, we maintained uninterrupted supply chain between the two countries. Also improving this connectivity further is imperative for expansion of our bilateral trade and realisation of the investment potential of Bangladesh and eastern India.

2. Need to give more impetus to Joint Production of Defence Equipment: Our defence cooperation has not progressed, though India offered USD 500 mn line of credit. Time has come to take it to the next level!

3. Explore potential areas of investments, like Textiles, Jute products, Leather & Footwear, APIs for Pharmaceuticals, Medical Equipment, Digital Health & Education Services, Agribusiness, Electronics, Renewable Energy, etc.

4. India and Bangladesh can become ‘Pharmacy of the world’: During COVID-19, vaccines produced in India, - Covaxin & Covishield created a niche for themselves as safe vaccines. Time has now come for joint manufacturing of vaccines and other medicines!

Goyal said India and Bangladesh enjoy a strong relationship on the solid foundation of a shared history, culture and values of democracy.

“We are brothers bonded by principles of our founding fathers - Bapu & Bangabandhu, the most revered Sheikh Mujibur Rahman),” he said.