Dhaka, August 4:

Bangladesh is pursuing bilateral free trade deals with three neighbouring countries following the collapse of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks for a global agreement, an official said today.

“Initially, the government will start bilateral free trade talks with India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” a government spokesman said.

Bangladesh is a member of the WTO and two regional trade treaties: the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral, Technical and

Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

But analysts say the country — where more than 40 per cent of the 144 million population lives below poverty line — has gained little from those multilateral trade deals and that bilateral deals are more beneficial.

“The government should pursue bilateral FTAs as gains from these deals are quicker than from SAFTA,” said Mustafizur Rahman, visiting professor of Yale University and the country’s leading trade expert.

Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute has compiled a report on the possible risks in signing such

an agreement.

The government will review the opinions and also another research by the World Bank, prior to taking the policy decision.