India is looking to advance a comprehensive free trade agreement with Bangladesh, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said on Monday at an industry event. Addressing the inaugural session of the India-Bangladesh Stakeholders meet, Goyal listed four focus areas for strengthening bilateral relationship including uninterrupted supply chain, joint production of defense equipment, and pharmaceuticals.
Goyal also pressed for the need to 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.
India and Bangladesh will soon finalize the joint study on the proposed bilateral free trade agreement, aimed to boost economic ties, and was discussed by two sides agreed during the secretary level talks on Friday in New Delhi.
Goyal urged pharma industries of the two sides to explore joint manufacturing of vaccines and medicines.  “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,” said Goyal in his address.
Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia.
The two sides are also decided to strengthen regional connectivity between the two countries through multi-modal transport.

“Since 2014 we have scaled up our trade and economic engagement as collaborators and not competitors,” said Goyal. He outlines that New Delhi extended three lines of credit for $8 bn to Bangladesh, the largest concessional credit given by India to any single country.
Bangladesh is India’s 5th largest export destination, accounting for 3.32% of India’s total outbound shipments in 2020-21 to $10.16bn and imported $1.09 bn worth of goods in the same year. Top exports from India to Bangladesh include cotton, cereals, fuel, vehicle parts and machinery, and mechanical appliances.
Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and India is the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh.
India and Bangladesh had decided in October last year to start talks on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA).
“Indo-Bangladesh CEO Forum to promote investments is another testimony to our friendship,” said Goyal. The CEO forum will also have the first meeting soon. He added that New Delhi was also developing two Indian Economic Zones at Mirsarai and Mongla in Bangladesh.
India has over 350 Indian companies in Bangladesh now, Goyal added.

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