The Chinese government well aware of the existing trade gap between China and Bangladesh has assured Bangladesh that they want to minimize it. In this connect, the China has offered to sign a free trade agreement with Bangladesh as an effort to narrow a growing trade gap, said the Bangladeshi foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his three day visit to Bangladesh made the proposal during talks with his counterpart in Dhaka in a move which local exporters described as a 'huge development.
However, the Bangladeshi minister did not say whether Bangladesh would sign up to any such agreement.
The Chinese minister also met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the main opposition leader Khaleda Zia during the tour.
Two-way trade between Dhaka and Beijing soared to 8.3 billion in the financial year ending in June but exports from Bangladesh accounted for less than a tenth of the total.
The country's garment industry welcomed the Chinese offer saying it could 'massively boost' exports to the world's second largest economy. Bangladesh is the world's second largest garment exporter after China.
According to Shahidullah Azim vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association which represents the country's 4500 textile factories, this FTA offer from China is a huge development.
Its domestic garment market is worth over 300 billion so one can imagine the kind of market access they can have if Dhaka signs an FTA with Beijing, he said.
He also thanked for some preferential trade access given by Beijing in recent years Bangladesh's garment exports to China grew to 240 million in the last financial year from less than 10 million in 2009-10.
According to experts, China has been making attempts to encourage Bangladesh in recent years by increasing development support.
Bangladesh is a signatory to several multilateral free trade agreements but has yet to sign any bilateral FTA.
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