Non-tariff barriers hinder regional trade
Bhutanese importers, exporters, and clearing agents expressed that non-tariff barriers are the biggest hindrances to trade in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) bloc during a consultative meeting organized by policy advocacy group for non-tariff measures under Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industry (BCCI) last week in Phuentsholing.
Non-tariff barriers or NTBs in short refer to restriction that result from prohibitions, conditions and specific market requirement that make trade difficult and costly. Clearing agents are those who process documents with the customs for traders to export and import goods in the country.
Traders in the country use Changrabanda-Burimari route, which is a land custom station, for export and import of goods from Bangladesh. It is 110km from Phuentsholing. Similarly traders use Panitanki-Kankaravita route which is the land custom station for trade with Nepal. It is approximately 200km from Phuentsholing.
Exporters highlighted that transportation cost has drastically increased as their consignments take a minimum of five to six days to enter into Bangladesh from the transit route.
A clearing agent said that different working hours of government offices in Changrabanda and Burimari borders affect the traders. Because of these differences in the timing, exporters have to wait for longer hours to get the customs clearance.
The General Secretary of Bhutanese Exporters Association (BEA), Tshering Yeshey, said trade from Changrabanda-Burimari does not take place as expected due to the various problems like disturbances caused by local institutions and organization. “Technical problems such as narrow roads, lack of facilities in Changrabandha-Burimari custms station, and limited handling capacity of Burimari customs are some major barriers to trade,” he added.
He also mentioned that around 1,000 trucks transport goods to Bangladesh everyday both from Bhutan and India. Traffic congestion along the route is another trade barrier that delays shipments.
“The Association has coordinated several border coordination meetings among relevant stakeholders to address these issues,” he said. “The issues were taken up with relevant agencies of our government and accordingly they written to Indian counterparts for their cooperation to facilitate the trade.”
The deficiencies of the hard infrastructure at most border posts in the SAARC region are substantial like lack of poor road conditions, railway networks, parking space, and scanning platforms. The absence of soft infrastructures like systems and process at customs, transport services, banking and logistics also hamper trade.
The policy advocacy group will submit these issues and recommendations to the government for lobbying to reduce the to reduce the trade barriers.