SBAIC member IBI has been working with the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) since 2013 to bolster economic growth by improving cross-border trade. The cost of inefficiencies in merchandise trade can reach as high as 15 percent of transactional values while non-tariff barriers to trade discourage investment and economic growth. To address the these, USAID awarded IBI the Bangladesh Trade Facilitation Activity (BTFA), a five-year program to confront trade-related challenges in information and transparency, compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) principles, ICT platforms, supply-chain security, and business partnerships between customs and the private sector.
On September 2018, IBI took a major step forward in realizing these goals with the launch of the three new tools to provide information and transparency to GoB officials and to the international trading community. IBI first launched the Customs Portal last year as a comprehensive website for all procedures, forms, laws, and other information pertaining to customs and trade. The website is publicly accessible, with a target audience that includes any parties participating in trade (for example, exporters, importers, and trade brokers), and customs or other officials wishing to access legislation, procedures, and rulings. Since its launch 12 month ago, it has hosted over 160,000 unique visitors from around the world. To enhance the Customs Portal experience with a National Enquiry Point (NEP), a Customs Hotline, and a Customs E-Auction. The new tools on the Customs Portal responds to the citizens’ demand for increased information and services and to the private sector need for greater transparency in trade matters. Importantly, it assists Bangladesh in complying with relevant provisions of the World Customs Organization (WCO) Revised Kyoto Convention and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement. The demand from the trading community is evident; in the first six weeks of the NEP’s launch, over 150 enquires were submitted and answered and the tool was visited over 80,000 times.
The Portal launch was attended by over 200 government officials and representatives from the private sector, chambers of commerce, and donor agencies. Among those present included Mr. M.A. Mannan, the GoB State Minister for Finance and Planning; Ms. Zeinah Salahi, the Acting Mission Director of USAID/Bangladesh; and Mr. Md. Mosharrof Hossain Bhuiyan, the chairman of the National Board of Revenue. The NEP, Customs Hotline, and the E-Auction can be visited at: http://www.bangladeshcustoms.gov.bd/