Monday, January 30, 2012

On transit, Dhaka set to go by GATT

Bangladesh will not impose any transit fees on India and will rather collect all charges permitted under GATT, a prime minister's advisor said on Monday.

"There is no such term (as) transit fee in 'books', and the government should strictly follow the principles laid down in GATT and transport economics," Mashiur Rahman, who advises prime minister Sheikh Hasina on economic affairs, told

"We will evaluate all admissible charges stipulated in GATT and add up all charges to fix a single figure," he said. "Our plan is to make a transit deal with India following international practice to fix admissible charges stipulated in GATT."

He said the amount would be linked with the volume of cargo and long-term business prospect.

"If the government can assure that India can enjoy the service for long-term with quality service ensured, the amount will be higher," he explained.

Rahman, however, had said at a seminar in October last year that transit and transshipment fee would be fixed in the next renewal meeting of protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, to be held before this March 31.

Transit has become a thorny issue between Dhaka and Delhi, especially after the neighbouring countries failed to strike an interim Teesta deal during Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's Dhaka visit last September.


On Monday, advisor Mashiur Rahman said it would be inefficient for Bangladesh to charge Indian cargoes on a per-tonne-per-kilometre basis. He said the country should rather charge a lump sum amount.

"When determining the lump sum figure, all admissible charges allowed by GATT will be taken into consideration," he explained.

"We have to evaluate efficiency of operations, stability of the friendly Bangladesh-Indian regimes, conformity of GATT principles and transport economics before taking any transit decision."

About the Jan 28 meeting at the Indian prime minister's office, where it was decided to 'consider providing additional money, if need be, to ensure night navigation facilities on Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route', Rahman remarked, "Why should we say no if they want to give us more money?"

India pays Bangladesh Tk 55 million each year to maintain navigability of transit routes.

The meeting also decided that the Indian foreign ministry would try to extend the period of Inland Trade and Transit Protocol beyond March 2012, when it comes for renewal to provide longer certainty to vessel operators, according to a media release of the Indian PMO.

"Further efforts shall be made for early completion of Ashuganj multi-modal port by Bangladesh and its regular use as a transit port," the release said.

Dhaka signed protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (IWTT) in New Delhi in 1972. As per the protocol, Indian cargoes can travel from one part of the country to another through Bangladesh.


Rahman said the shipping ministry is negotiating with its counterpart to renew the IWTT protocol. The ministry, he said, would consult the core committee's report before taking any decision.

The core committee on transit formed by the government has submitted its final report.

Asked about regular transit movement, he said it was never stopped. "There were several trial runs on multi-modal transit but now there is no barrier to regular movement."

The first commercial transshipment under trial run was held through Ashuganj port on Sept 28 last year.