Bangladesh and Australia yesterday signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) to attract investment and remove trade barriers between the two countries.

This is the second bilateral trade-related platform for Bangladesh after signing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum agreement with the United States in November 2013.

Tipu Munshi, Minister of Commerce of Bangladesh, and Dan Tehan, Minister of Trade, Tourism and Investment of Australia, signed the agreement in a virtual ceremony.

“We need foreign investment. Australia is a very potential country for us both for investment and as an export destination,” Munshi told the Daily Star after the event.

“Trade with Australia is growing. We are ready to approve Australian investments in any sector.”

A great Australian team is expected to travel to Bangladesh early next year.

The two sides will hold meetings soon to formulate the guidelines for the Tifa and on how and when they will hold dialogues under the platform.

The Tifa is not linked to the tariff preference and mainly concerns investments. Currently, Bangladesh enjoys preferential tariff concessions on exports to Australia as a least developed country.

The Tifa, the first of its kind between Australia and Bangladesh over the past five decades, is expected to provide a platform for institutionalized economic interactions and open up new opportunities for trade and investment.

A joint working group (JWG) will be formed under Tifa with representations from relevant sectors and sub-sectors, according to a statement from the Bangladesh High Commission in Australia.

The JWG should provide a mechanism to move discussions forward to realize the full potential of trade and investment.

“We expect Tifa to address all relevant issues, including the maintenance of DFQF [duty-free, quota-free] the treatment accorded to Bangladesh in the context of post-LDC reclassification, trade liberalization, creation of an atmosphere conducive to greater trade in services and flow of investment, ”Munshi said in the statement.

“The Morrison government is working to energize and expand the trade and investment relationship between Australia and Bangladesh, in order to support jobs and business opportunities in both countries,” Tehan said.

He assured Bangladesh of continued duty-free and quota-free treatment pending the next review, which is not expected in the foreseeable future.

“Australia has the potential to meet Bangladesh’s growing education, training and energy needs. And we offer world-class expertise in agricultural and infrastructure development.

Bilateral trade has grown six times over the past decade. In fiscal year 2018-2019, Bangladesh exported goods worth $ 804.63 million and imported goods worth $ 596.70 million, according to data from the Ministry of Commerce .

Clothing, agriculture, food and education services have been the main engines of trade growth. Australia is emerging as a major source of raw cotton and lentils for Bangladesh.

Although not a legally binding agreement, the Tifa can help add new tradable items on both sides and facilitate bilateral trade and investment.

Australia has offered to host the inaugural meeting of the CWG in early 2022.

Speaking at the event, Sufiur Rahman, Bangladesh’s High Commissioner to Australia, said Australia could use Bangladesh as one of its main suppliers of manufactured goods.

“Australia can see Bangladesh as the entry point to the sub-regional market of over 300 million people.

Munshi invited Tehan to visit Dhaka. The Australian minister warmly accepted the request and promised to visit Bangladesh next year with a trade and investment delegation.

Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer also spoke at the event.