President of Bangladesh-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the country's one of the leading businessmen Matlub Ahmed said India is opening up and specially its northeast is emerging as a big market for Bangladesh goods.
He said his business house the Nitol Group is now setting up two paper mills at Chhatak in the Sunamgonj district exclusively focused on the Indian market across the Meghalaya border.
Matlub said he is also working on a tyre manufacturing factory there in a joint venture with a Chinese firm and the market focus essentially remains the Indian northeast. He told The New Nation Friday evening that Indian investors have also shown interest to set up textile plants and other spare parts factories at Sunamgonj where gas supply may be available. He is working as a facilitator in all these projects. Some Indian corporate houses are also working on investment plans at Kishoregonj to manufacture small transport vans, tyres, motor parts and to set up textile plants, he said. These are long term projects but work is in progress at different levels, Matlub said.
He, however, believes most Indian business want investment projects in and around Dhaka and it may take time to refocus on other locations. He said the trade relation with India is growing faster in the recent years with an average 40 percent annual rise in the past two years.
Bangladesh is now enjoying hundred percent duty free market accesses to India in garment items while Dhaka is trying to expand the list, he said, adding: export to India has already hit $700 million last year while Indian export stands at $4.5 billion. Bangladesh's exports are, however, catching up in the recent years, he said.
Matlub Ahmed said the ongoing India-Bangladesh Trade Fair in the city; which will end today (Saturday) at Bangabandhu International Conference Center, and such other regular exchanges will only contribute to strengthening the bilateral trade relations to be followed by increased volume of export to India.
The main problem for Bangladesh is its limited export basket, he said, adding it needs diversification at a faster space and the business community is capable to achieve it given the peace and policy support to open new export sectors and achieve its quality standard.
He said India understands that its Northeast will not be able to grow without allowing its closer business ties with Bangladesh and exporters here should exploit the situation. He said the policy outlook of Delhi has undergone tremendous change in allowing the northeastern states to enter into growing trade with Bangladesh.
Exports to Tripura has already gone phenomenally up, but to Assam and Meghalaya the pace remains slow in want of wide ranging products.
He said northeast is poor compared to the Indian mainland where GDP growth stands at 8 percent plus while it varies from 3 to 4 percent in the northeast. A closer business and economic ties can only bring the necessary boost to its socio-economic development. It requires closer ties and frequent consultation at political and business levels, he said.
Matlub Ahmed said the visiting Arunachal Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, now attending the trade fair, has called for Bangladesh investment in his state, including at a hydroelectric dam. He said he has offered to take rod, cements and such other construction materials for the dam from Bangladesh and also spoke of his readiness to sell electricity here in return.
He said he was very optimistic of the growing market access to India. The presence of a 40, member Indian delegation which also includes the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Mukul Sangma, two ministers from Assam, one minister from Tripura along with its Chief Secretary and a number of chamber leaders from the center and the sates have added new dimension to this year's trade fair, he said.