Bangladesh and Japan will soon discuss the findings of a joint study on signing the proposed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for furthering trade and investment between the two countries.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister for economy, trade and industry of Japan, is scheduled to visit Dhaka on July 23, according to Yuji Ando, country representative of the Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro).

During his visit, Nishimura will participate in a business summit on Bangladesh-Japan trade, to be held at the Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.

Besides, he will meet Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi to hold talks on the joint study, which was launched in December last year, Ando said.

The EPA covers not only tariff rates, but also trade and investment components.

In April, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the proposed EPA during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Japan.

Formal negotiations on the EPA will start after finalisation of the joint study.

During his visit, Nishimura will participate in a business summit on Bangladesh-Japan trade to be held in Dhaka

Nishimura is also scheduled to hold meetings with members of the Japanese Commerce and Industry Association in Dhaka (JCIAD), a platform of 130 Japanese companies in Dhaka, to discuss investment opportunities in Bangladesh.

Nishimura’s entourage include Toshiki Wani, deputy director-general for trade policy of Japan, Taro Kawachi, managing director of Bangladesh SEZ Ltd, and Yoshiro Kaku, chief representative of NEDO India, as per the programme schedule.

Both countries aim to sign the EPA by the end of 2025 or in early 2026, Senior Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said earlier.

Bangladesh is signing agreements with its trading partners in order to retain duty-free export benefits after graduating from the group of the least-developed countries (LDCs) in 2026.

A Jetro survey in June last year showed that 85 per cent of local and Japanese companies with operations in both nations want their respective governments to strike a free trade agreement (FTA). This is so they can enjoy duty benefits after Bangladesh becomes a developing nation.

The Jetro survey showed 20 per cent of the companies may even relocate from Bangladesh to more competitive destinations in Southeast Asia if no FTA is signed.

Of the respondents among local companies, 87 per cent sought an FTA between the two countries.

Japan is the only Asian nation where the export of goods from Bangladesh crossed the $1 billion mark for the first time since 2012 on the back of increased garment shipments, which account for 95 per cent of the earnings.

Local garment exporters have targeted to ship $10 billion worth of garment items to Japan by 2030.

The number of Japanese companies operating in Bangladesh has tripled over the last decade, reaching 338 in 2022.

In December, the Japanese Special Economic Zone at Araihazar of Nayaranganj was inaugurated to attract more investment from the world’s third-largest economy.

The tariff will go up from 7.4 per cent to 10.9 per cent on garment exports to Japan if the generalised system of preferences (GSP) expires, the Jetro survey said.

Bangladesh shipped goods worth $1.90 billion to Japan in the last fiscal year, up 40.74 per cent year-on-year, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.

Of the sum, $1.59 billion came from apparel shipments, up 45.40 per cent from the previous fiscal year.

The shipment of garment items started leapfrogging in April 2011, when Japan relaxed its Rules of Origin for LDCs and the knitwear sector.

According to the findings of the Jetro survey, the existing Rules of Origin in the GSP for garment products should be continued.

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