Chittagong-Ranong Port connectivity could increase trade and connectivity between SAARC and ASEAN if it can be connected with Gwadar Port and Chabahar

Bangladesh and Thailand are very old friends. The two countries are connected by the Bay of Bengal and by the sea. Bangladesh and Thailand should further strengthen their cooperation in the fields of trade, investment and regional communications by exploiting the vast potentials. Bangladesh and Thailand could benefit if they are linked to each other by direct maritime connectivity.

The seaport of Chittagong is the main seaport in Bangladesh. 90% of Bangladesh’s trade is done through Chittagong (Port of Chattagram). On the other hand, the port of Ranong in Thailand is located in the province of Ranong in Thailand. Ranong lies on the Kraburi River of the Kra Peninsula, opposite Myanmar and near the coast of the Indian Ocean. The Southern Economic Corridor Project, approved by the Thai government in August 2018, focuses on the development of Ranong Port as a trade gateway with Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Using the port of Ranong for trade with the Bangladeshi ports of Chittagong, Payra and Mangla will reduce the distance between the two countries and boost trade. Then this connectivity can be extended to the Indian ports of Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai.
The launch of direct shipping services between Chittagong Port in Bangladesh and Ranong Port in Thailand has received a new boost as trade between the two countries increases.

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

In 2021, Bangladesh exported US $ 39 million to Thailand. Exports for the previous year amounted to US $ 35.46 million. According to data on FDI stocks in Bangladesh, Thailand is the 15th largest investor in the country. But the volume of bilateral trade would increase if the two countries signed an FTA and built direct maritime connectivity between the ports of Chittagong and Ranong.

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

On the other hand, Bangladesh exports clothing, vegetables, textile fibers, clothing, animal products, electrical and electronic equipment, frozen fish and shellfish. The two countries are also in talks to sign a free trade agreement to boost trade and investment.
Many see Bangladesh as a bridge between ASEAN and SAARC. Establishing trade and economic corridors through coordination between Bangladesh’s Look East policy and Thailand’s Look West policy and establishing connectivity through cabotage will bring prosperity to both. Thailand can fully support Bangladesh’s candidacy for membership in the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Forum and the ASEAN Sector Partnership.

Direct maritime connectivity between Chittagong Port and Ranang Port 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 be reduced to a third. In addition to Myanmar, it will also play a key role in establishing links with other countries in Southeast Asia. The introduction of direct maritime transport between the two countries will encourage traders from both countries to develop bilateral trade and investment.

The connectivity of the Port of Ranong with the Port of Chittagong will facilitate a new maritime trade route between Bangladesh and India. Port connectivity is needed between Thailand and Bangladesh to boost trade and level the playing field by tapping into the potentials. Thailand would be able to boost trade with India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka under the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

Thailand and Bangladesh are active partners in the visionary Chinese “BRI” project. While Thailand-Bangladesh maritime connectivity between the ports of Chittagong and Ranong can be extended to the Iranian port of Chabahar and the Pakistani port of Gwadar via the Sri Lankan port of Colombo via the Chinese BRI project and the International North South Transport Corridor, a huge potential for the region will create. Basically, the free trade area between ASEAN and SAARC will be secured. Thailand can access the West Asian, Central Asian and Russian market as some connectivity projects are offered from the Pakistani port of Gwadar and the Iranian port of Chabahar to Russia and Europe via the Western Asia and Central Asia.

It should be noted that although the Bangladesh-Thailand Maritime Assistance Agreement was concluded in 1986, it is currently in force. But Bangladesh and Thailand can renew the deal to ensure their own commercial interests.

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

She said she was waiting for a memorandum of understanding to be signed between Thai authorities and the Chittagong Port Authority to establish direct sea links. She made the remarks during a meeting with the board of directors of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Bangabandhu Conference Hall of the Chittagong World Trade Center in September 2021. It is true that trade between the two country would increase if a direct connection was established between Chittagong in Bangladesh and the port of Ranang in Thailand.

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

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