SBAIC member IBI, the recipient of USAID’s Small Business of the Year award in 2015, 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 these issues, 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.

IBI took a major step toward realizing these goals with the launch of the Bangladesh Customs Portal in September 2017. The Portal is 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. That audience includes: exporters, importers and trade brokers, as well as customs or other officials wishing to access legislation, procedures and rulings.

The Portal responds to citizens’ demand for increased information and services and the private sector’s 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 WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

The Portal launch was attended by more than 200 government officials and representatives from the private sector, chambers of commerce and donor agencies. Among those present were: Mr. M.A. Mannan, the GoB State Minister for Finance and Planning; Ms. Janina Jaruzelski, the Mission Director of USAID/Bangladesh; and Mr. Md. Nojibur Rahman, the Chairman of the National Board of Revenue. In the first full quarter of the launch (October – December 2017), the Portal witnessed 41,049 usage sessions where customs and trade related information was accessed. The Portal can be visited @ http://www.bangladeshcustoms.gov.bd/