Two of India’s neighbors – Bangladesh and Bhutan on Sunday signed the first-ever preferential trade agreement (PTA) to boost bilateral trade.
Bangladesh’s Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi and Bhutanese Economic Affairs Minister Lyonpo Loknath Sharma sealed the agreement in the capital Dhaka.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering joined the event virtually from their official residences in Dhaka and Thimphu respectively.
The agreement comes at a time when the two South Asian countries are also marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties. Bhutan recognized Bangladesh’s independence on Dec. 6, 1971, becoming the first country in the world to accept it as a sovereign nation.
Hasina said Bhutan has a special place in the hearts of all Bangladeshis.
“The agreement, which both sides signed today, will contribute to further consolidating the relations between our two countries,” she said. “Under this agreement, a range of products from Bangladesh  and Bhutan  can find duty-free entry into each other’s markets.”
Tshering said his Thimphu pays “high importance” to ties with Dhaka, and recalled his eight years in Bangladesh, including five years as a medical student.
“Bangladesh is always very close to my heart,” he said, calling it his second home.
He urged the people of both the countries to take the agreement as an opportunity, hoping it will “strengthen” the mutual relationship.
In his address, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said the agreement is a new chapter in bilateral ties, urging businessmen of both the countries to take advantage of the accord.
He said there is a possibility of “robust trade” and cooperation in many areas including education, health, shipping, information technology, and agriculture in the near future.
According to official figures, trade between Bangladesh and Bhutan was $12.77 million in the fiscal year 2008-09, which rose to $49.65 million in 2018-19.