Bangladesh is joining RCEP

Sathia Kumar


Bangladesh is joining the trade alliance Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This decision was taken in an inter-ministerial meeting held under the chairmanship of Commerce Ministry Senior Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh on Tuesday. Now this decision of the ministry will be presented in the cabinet meeting. If approved there, the Ministry of Commerce will send a proposal for inclusion following the process of joining RSEP.

RCEP has come into effect with 15 countries since January 1, 2022. China, a commercial and economic powerhouse, is leading this alliance. According to the rules, after 18 months i.e. from July 1, other countries can also apply for inclusion in the RCEP. Two more countries (Sri Lanka and Hong Kong) are currently under consideration to join the alliance. Now Bangladesh also wants to be included there. An application will be made soon for this purpose. This information has been revealed by the responsible sources of the Ministry of Commerce.

According to relevant sources, ARSECP is said to be a trade bloc led by China, but close US allies Japan, South Korea and Australia are also members of this bloc. Moreover, the possibility of inclusion of India as a founder member of this alliance has been kept open at any time. There is no opportunity for Bangladesh to sit there. On the other hand, Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission has come up in the feasibility study. Joining this alliance has the potential to increase Bangladesh’s exports by $5 billion. All in all, a policy decision has been taken in favor of Bangladesh’s inclusion in the RCEP.

Those concerned said that Vietnam, Bangladesh’s rival and equal country in international trade, has joined ARSEP with any kind of commitments, which were reviewed in that meeting. Besides, Bangladesh is going to be promoted to a developing country in 2026 from the list of least developed countries. Due to this promotion, there is a vigorous process of making Bangladesh Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with different countries of the world. Among them are China, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia – these 6 countries, which are already as ARSP founder members. Considering the overall profit and loss of Bangladesh, the decision to join this alliance has been decided by the stakeholders. Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Textiles and Jute, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Food, National Board of Revenue, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock were present in the meeting.

If asked, additional secretary of the Ministry of Commerce (FTA Division) Noor Md. Mahbubul Haque said that a policy decision was made in favor of Bangladesh’s accession to RCEP with some prior precautions. However, in response to a question about how soon the application will be sent, he said, the ARSEEP memorandum does not say anything clearly about the accession process for new members. In other words, for inclusion in the alliance, Bangladesh should only make an application, or should follow a prescribed model – now we need to inquire about it.

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