As a retaliation against tighter scrutiny of Chinese goods by Indian Customs, Bangladesh has started hitting back against Indian supplies through the Petrapole border in West Bengal since Wednesday. The move is purportedly in response to a decision by the West Bengal authorities to retain restrictions on imports from Bangladesh via Petrapole to contain the Covid-19 spread, while Dhaka had been allowing Indian supplies through the same border since June 7, Financial Express reports.
Sushil Patwari, chairman of the eastern chapter of the exporters’ body FIEO, told Financial Express that about 1,000 Indian trucks bound for Bangladesh were stuck at the West Bengal border, as Dhaka officials wanted the state to allow entry of their country’s goods into India. While Indian goods were finally allowed to move into Bangladesh by Wednesday evening, their officials again stopped the supplies on Thursday, Patwar isaid.
Almost 500 Bangladeshi trucks were also waiting at Benapole (Bangaldeshi side of the Petrapole border) with goods to get into West Bengal. In a letter to West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday, Patwari sought her “urgent intervention” to help resume trade.
While no one has yet made it official, analysts suspect increasing China’s influence in Bangladesh economy behind the stalemate. Beijing has been wooing Dhaka through greater trade concessions. Beijing recently widened the scope of an existing trade agreement with Dhaka to allow about 97 per cent of Bangladeshi goods at concessional duties. Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said on June 19 that while the country already received tariff-exemption for 3,095 items under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA). A total of 8,256 goods would be exempted from the Chinese tariffs. India’s exports to Bangladesh declined by 9.4 per cent y-o-y in April-February of the last fiscal to $7.5 billion, far worse than a 1 per cent drop in India’s overall merchandise shipments abroad. Cotton is the largest export item, accounting for a fifth of India’s supplies to Bangladesh, followed by mineral fuels, automobiles and capital goods. In contrast, India’s imports from Bangladesh jumped by 22 per cent to $1.2 billion.