In 2026, when Bangladesh is expected to graduate from the United Nations' least-developed countries list, it will lose preferential access to many of its global trading partners. Bangladesh needs to immediately expand its export destinations to its neighbors and shift away from readymade garments to more diversified exports. This will be challenging for a variety of reasons. While Bangladesh has 23 land border crossings, trade with its neighbors accounts for only 10% of national trade. Trade with neighbors is hindered by underdeveloped customs stations, outdated trade policies and operations, and bureaucratic government agencies.

Underdeveloped trade facilities at borders means that the average time required from entry to exit is about 4 hours for import and 3–6 hours for export at crossings such as Akhaura, Sonamasjid, and Tamabil, according to an ADB study.

About half of this time is spent waiting for inefficient procedures to be completed. Perishable goods cannot be traded under such slow and unpredictable operations. - blog.adb.org/blgos

A version of this article appears in the print on November 26, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.