Chittagong, Bangladesh: U Thein Sein, the president of Burmese civilian government is scheduled to visit in Bangladesh in March 2012. He will discuss bilateral trade issues and others, according to government sources.
Recently, a meeting was held in Rangoon, government officials of both the countries have expressed their willingness to sign an agreement next month on plying of small non-conventional vessels.
Bangladesh and Burma have agreed in principle to allow plying of non-conventional vessels, having capacities of carrying below 6,000 tons of goods, in an effort to boost bilateral trade between the two countries.
Joint secretary of the shipping ministry Md Alauddin, who headed the Bangladesh delegation at the meeting, said: "We will amend the existing protocol and incorporate the plying of non-conventional vessels in it."
Both the countries amended the 'Agreement on coastal and maritime shipping' and the 'Protocol on coastal sea-borne trade' of 2008, he added.
“Bangladesh and Myanmar will declare three 'ports of call' on their respective sides after signing the agreement, he said.
"We are preparing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to set a formal framework on plying of non-conventional vessels," he added.
Both the countries will have to sign the SOP on plying of the vessels, he added further.
Amendment to agreement needs approval of the government high-ups, he said expressing his optimism over signing the agreement next month.
Another member of the team said Bangladesh can reach the markets of Thailand, China, and Malaysia through Burma after starting plying of small vessels between the countries.
"We can reduce dependence on India if we can get access to those markets," he added.
K B Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said trading through conventional vessels involves higher cost and time.
"Freight charges are negotiable in non-conventional vessels. Sailing time of non-conventional small vessels is also short. Both the countries can export or import products within 12 hours," he said.
Bangladeshi businessmen faced difficulties in competing with products of Thailand and China due to higher freight charges, he said.
Mr Ahmed said population of the country is increasing fast; so we should find new markets to reduce dependence on India.
Earlier, the shipping ministry had formed a nine-member committee to prepare a draft of the amendment to the agreements.
The committee, headed by Md Alauddin, is now working on amendment to the agreement by reviewing the existing protocol.
It is also scrutinizing import-export statistics between the countries. It will also set port and other charges.