China’s duty-free access is a boon for exports from Bangladesh: envoy


China has added all garment products to its duty-free basket as it offered to expand trade privileges to an additional 1 percent of Bangladeshi goods.

The zero-tariff treatment for the additional Bangladeshi goods and services was announced during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Dhaka in the first week of August.

But it was unclear at the time whether garment products, the largest exporting item of Bangladesh, had been added to the tax-free list.

Mango, jackfruit, guava, honey, beef and all kinds of garment products from Bangladesh are listed as duty-free products as part of the trade benefits, according to Chinese Ambassador Li Jiming.

And, garment products account for more than 60 percent of Bangladesh’s exports to China, he said in an interview with bdnews24.com.

Bangladesh is now the second-largest exporter of clothes in the world after China and the garment industry constituted almost 82 percent of exports in the 2021-22 fiscal year. The country exported $52 billion of goods in the year, with garment shipments accounting for $42.61 billion.

Jiming said 97 percent of goods originating from Bangladesh have been enjoying duty-free access to the Chinese market since July 2020, which showed a “positive effect” on exports. The benefits will now apply to 98 percent of Bangladeshi goods.

Bangladesh’s exports to China exceeded $1 billion for the first time in 2021, registering a year-on-year growth rate of 30.9 percent, according to China Customs data.

Besides garments and fruits, several kinds of basic leather products were added to the new tax-free list, a development which State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam welcomed as “good news” for Bangladesh.

These products include tanned or crust leather, whole hides and skins, patent leather, patent laminated leather and metallised leather.

Jiming said the new duty-free list added ground-nut oil, sunflower-seed oil and cotton-seed oil, polyethylene and polypropylene, and footwear products, such as shoes and boots.

There had been a huge trade deficit between the two countries as Bangladesh imported more than $13 billion worth of goods from the second-largest economy in the world in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

“The duty-free treatment to 98 percent of tariff lines goods will surely help Bangladesh to further increase its exports to China, to continuously diversify the products of export and also to better reap the potential of sustainable development,” the Chinese ambassador said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to Dhaka came against the backdrop of simmering tensions over the Taiwan Strait following the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Tapei, at a time when the world was already bearing the brunt of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Both Bangladesh and China discussed the issues of Taiwan and the Russia-Ukraine war as well as the global polarisation stemming from these issues during bilateral meetings.

Replying to a question regarding the discussion of geopolitical issues, Jiming said China and Bangladesh had renewed commitments to the traditional friendship and reiterated the One-China principle.

Both sides “agreed to deepen strategic integration, and further enhanced practical cooperation, thereby jointly infused power of stability to the region and beyond against an uneasy international environment. The visit was fruitful and of great success,” he added. During his 17-hour visit, Wang held bilateral meetings with his counterpart AK Abdul Momen and called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The two countries signed four agreements and memoranda of understanding, revolving around disaster management, infrastructure and cultural exchange. The Bangladesh government reiterated its position on the One-China Policy during meetings with Wang. Referring to the discussions with Hasina, Jiming said she underscored that Bangladesh sees China as an important partner in peace and development, and it is an “irreplaceable option” for Bangladesh to deepen solidarity and cooperation with China. “The two sides agreed to strengthen mutual political trust. Based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, we support each other to defend independence, national dignity and core interests, and to follow a development path suited to our respective national conditions. We are willing to keep exchange on the governance of the country,” the envoy said.

“The two sides agreed to have even closer coordination on development strategies. The Belt and Road Initiative and the Vision 2041 perspective plan will be further integrated. Cooperation will be deepened in the fields of infrastructure, digital economy, green development and so on.”