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Chittagong -Ranong port connectivity could boost up the trade and connectivity between SAARC and ASEAN if it can be connected with Gwadar and Chabahar port

Bangladesh and Thailand are very old friends. The two countries are connected by the Bay of Bengal and by sea. Bangladesh and Thailand should strengthen cooperation more in trade, investment and regional communications exploiting the ample potentials. Bangladesh and Thailand could benefit if they are connected with each other through direct maritime connectivity.

Chittagong sea port is the main sea port in Bangladesh. 90% trade of Bangladesh is conducted through Chittagong (Chattagram Port). On the other hands, Ranong port of Thailand is situated in Ranong province in Thailand. Ranong is on the Kraburi River of the Kra Peninsula, across from Myanmar and near the Indian Ocean coast. The Southern Economic Corridor project, approved by the Government of Thailand in August 2018, emphasizes development of Ranong port as a gateway to trade with Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. Using Ranong port for trade with Bangladesh’s Chittagong, Payra and Mangla ports will reduce distance between the two countries and boost trade. Then this connectivity can be extended to India’s Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai ports
The launch of direct shipping services between Chittagong Port in Bangladesh and Ranong Port in Thailand has received a new push as trade between the two countries is increasing.

Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Thailand has reached USD 837.08 million in 2019-20. Bangladesh’s total exports to Thailand in 2020 were only 35.46 million US dollars and imports from Thailand were 801.3 million US dollars.

In 2021, Bangladesh exported 39 million US dollars to Thailand. The previous year’s exports were 35.46 million US dollars. According to FDI stock data in Bangladesh, Thailand is the 15th largest investor in the country. But the amount of bilateral trade would increase if the two countries sing a FTA and build a direct maritime connectivity between Chittagong and Ranong ports.

Thailand mainly exports cement, cereals, plastics, man-made staple fibers, sugar and sugar confectionery, machinery and mechanical equipment, cotton and cotton cloth, salt, sulfur, clay, stone and mineral fuels.

On the other hand, Bangladesh exports garments, vegetables, textile fibers, garments, animal products, electrical and electronic equipment, frozen fish and crustaceans. The two countries are also in talks to sign a free trade agreement to boost trade and investment..
Many consider that Bangladesh is a gateway between ASEAN and SAARC. The establishment of trade and economic corridors through coordination between the Look East Policy of Bangladesh and the Look West Policy of Thailand and the establishment of connectivity through coastal shipping will bring prosperity for both. Thailand’s can support fully for Bangladesh’s bid for membership in the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Forum and the ASEAN Sectoral Partnership.

Direct sea connectivity between the port of Chittagong and the port of Ranang in Thailand will play an important role in expanding trade and commerce between the two countries. The time and cost of transporting the goods will come down to one third. In addition to Myanmar, it will also play a key role in building ties with other Southeast Asian countries. The introduction of direct shipping between the two countries will encourage traders from both countries to expand bilateral trade and investment.

The connectivity of Ranong Port with Chittagong port will facilitate a new maritime trade route between Bangladesh and India. Port connectivity is needed between Thailand and Bangladesh to boost up trade and smooth the pave tapping the potentials. Thailand would be able to boost trade with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka under the framework of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

Thailand and Bangladesh are the active partner of Chinese Visionary project ‘BRI’. If Thailand-Bangladesh sea connectivity between Chittagong and Ranong ports can be extended to Iran’s Chabahar port and Pakistan’s Gwadar port via Sri Lankan Colombo port through China’s BRI and International North South Transport Corridor project, a huge potential for the region will create. Basically, free trade zone between ASEAN and SAARC will be ensured. Thailand can access into the market of West Asia, Central Asia and Russia because there are some proposed connectivity projects from Pakistan’s Gwadar port and Iran’s Chabahar port to Russia and Europe through West Asia and Central Asia.

It is to be noted that although the Maritime Assistance Agreement between Bangladesh and Thailand was completed in 1986, it is currently in force. But the Bangladesh and Thailand can renew the agreement for ensuring their own business interest.

Bangladesh and Thailand are both interested to build direct seaport connectivity between Chittagong and Thailand’s Ranong.
Thai ambassador Makawadee Sumitmor at a bilateral business meeting with DCCI on November 2, 2021 that Thai government is planning to open the country step by step and by next two months it will be possible to open fully easing Covid-19 restrictions. Makawadee Sumitmor said that still there is a trade gap between these two friendly countries. She also said that expansion of India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral route will boost trade in this region.

She said that she was waiting for the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Thai authorities and the Chittagong Port Authority to establish direct shipping links by sea. She made the remarks at a meeting with the board of Chittagong’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries at Bangabandhu Conference Hall at Chittagong’s World Trade Centre in September 2021. It is true that Trade between the two countries would increase if a direct connection was established between Chittagong in Bangladesh and the Ranang seaport in Thailand.

There are huge opportunities for Thai investors in infrastructure, light engineering, agriculture and food processing, and tourism and healthcare. Thailand and Bangladesh both could and should utilize these potentials. But a smooth connectivity is needed to boost the Trade. Chittagong and Ranong port connectivity would boost up the trade, expansion of tourism. Bangladesh and Thailand both can benefit from the sea connectivity project.
Source: By Pathik Hasan

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