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Bangladesh, Bhutan customs decides to explore river routes

DHAKA: The Joint Group of Customs (JGC) of Bangladesh and Bhutan has recently decided to explore the possibility of using Chilmari-Roumari river routes by Bhutan.

The joint working group of customs officials discussed the agenda at a meeting held in Thimphu, Bhutan on July 26-27.

The proposal of using the river routes of Chilmari and Roumari was made by Bhutan in a commerce secretary-level meeting last year.

Officials concerned said Bangladesh agreed with the proposal to explore the possibility of opening the routes as convenient for Bhutan.

A member of the delegation of JGC said Bhutan needs India’s permission for using Haldia port as transit to use the two Bangladeshi river routes and reach Mongla seaport.

Other agendas of the meeting included removal of non-tariff barriers, exchange of export-import data, enhancing bilateral trade relating to loading, unloading, warehousing and testing facilities, and sharing information regarding any change in import-export regulations between the countries etc.

National Board of Revenue (NBR) member (customs: international trade) Md Feroz Shah Alam led the Bangladesh delegation, while director of Department of Revenue and Customs Yonten Namgyel led the Bhutan team.

At the meeting, customs officials of both the countries expressed hope over making a vibrant communication with the upcoming Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN-MVA).

“Our exporters have to shift their goods at Burimari landport from Bangladeshi trucks to Indian trucks to reach Bhutan,” the delegation member said.

Currently, trucks of Bangladesh cannot go up to Bhutan border at Phuentsholing using the Indian land. Bangladeshi exporters have to unload their goods at Burimari landport and reload those in Indian trucks to reach Bhutan, which increases cost of business, he also said.

JGC also discussed lack of warehouse and testing facilities at Chengrabandha land customs stations in India, opposite to Burimari landport, causing delay in clearance of goods, he added.

JGC of Bangladesh-Bhutan decided to request India for removing such barriers for Bangladeshi exporters.

Officials said during the SASEC (South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation) customs subgroup (SCS 3) meeting, held in March in Goa, India, customs officials decided to share export declarations data at the border crossing points.

Following the decision, JCG agreed to share export-import data of Phuentsholing and Burimari customs stations.

“List of at least three export commodities would be shared between the countries. Bhutan already submitted the list of three commodities to the Asian Development Bank focal point for the sub-regional SASEC project,” said agenda of the meeting.

The delegation from Bhutan suggested the Bangladesh side to designate Regional Director, Regional Revenue and Customs Office (RRCO) and deputy/assistant commissioner, Burimari of Bangladesh as the regional focal points for information sharing, it said.

The meeting also decided to share information on customs intelligence at the national level and designate the director general of Customs Intelligence and Investigations, Bangladesh and the collector, customs and excise, Department of Revenue and Customs, Bhutan for the task.

Customs officials underscored the need for expediting process of clearance of goods as well as adequate warehouse and testing facilities.

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