An inter-ministerial meeting agreed to start negotiation to ink the much-expected Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India to increase trade and investment with the neighbouring country.

Representatives from different ministries, including labour, commerce and home affairs, along with senior officials of different state agencies were present in the meeting – held at the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) on Monday.

MoC Senior Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh presided over the meeting.

When contacted, he said, “It was a consultation meeting on the issue. We discussed and presented different issues in the meeting, including on the CEPA.”

“The inter-ministerial meeting agreed to start negotiation with India for signing the CEPA,” MoC Additional Secretary Md Abdur Rahim Khan told over the phone.

The negotiation on signing the CEPA with India is a part of the government’s initiatives to sign deals with major trading partners to retain the duty-free and quote-free (DFQF) facility after Bangladesh’s graduation from a least developed country (LDC) to a developing nation.

Signing the CEPA could offset the impacts of potential challenges, to emerge after the graduation, officials said.

Recently, the parliament adopted a law on signing free trade agreements, preferential trade agreements and CEPA with the potential and developed countries, so that Bangladesh would not face any setback to retain the DFQF market access facility after the graduation.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, during his visit to India in April, said Bangladesh was keen to seal the CEPA with India within this year.

Both the countries agreed to sign the deal in 2018.