In 1972-73, the export earnings of the country totaled US$348.33 million, of which 90% came from the jute export sector. The other major export producing items were tea and leather. Since then, the country has been widening its export base. The situation has now vastly improved with addition of non-traditional items like readymade garments, shrimps, fish, finished, leather, newsprint chemical fertilizer, handicrafts, naphtha, ceramic products, fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables, etc. As a result, the export earnings increased, estimated to be US $ 5020 million during 1997-98.
The major importable items include raw cotton, textile fabrics and accessories cotton yarn, petroleum products, capital machinery, automobiles including spares and accessories, industrial chemicals and dyes, pharmaceutical raw materials, milk food, edible-oil, coal, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, cement, etc. The value of imports during 1997-98 has been estimated to be US$ 7525 million.
In line with the global trend, the government has steadily liberalized its trade barriers and significant progress has been achieved in recent years in reducing or eliminating non-tariff restrictions, rationalizing tariff rates and raising export incentives.
The county was one of the major exporters of textiles, silk and sugar till the eighteenth century but the industrialization process was subsequently halted during the 200 years of colonial exploitation. As a result, Bangladesh inherited a narrow industrial base when it became independent in 1971.
It has a good number of large, medium and small-sized industries in both public and private sectors based on both indigenous and imported raw materials. Among them are jute, cotton, textile, fertilizer, engineering, shipbuilding, steel, oil-refinery, paper, newsprint, sugar, chemicals, cement and leather. Raw Jute and Jute Industry Have traditionally played an important role in the national economy. But in recent years, Ready Made Garments Industry has replaced Jute Industry as the principal export-earner for the country. Considerable progress has been attained in the past few years in industries such as leather, ceramic, shrimp, fish, pharmaceuticals and frozen food.
With the development of infrastructures, supportive policies for trade and investment and comparative advantage in labor intensive Industries, excellent prospects for investment exist in Bangladesh today. Industrial growth was recorded at 81% during 1997-98. Foreign investors are pouring into the country in greater numbers everyday, especially in the export processing zones special facilties existing at Dhaka and Chattogram.
To attract local and foreign investors, the present government has introduced a number of perks and incentives. These include provision for setting up export processing zones in the private sector, initiatives to set up new EPZs in the public sector, tax holiday for export-oriented industries, scope for 100 percent foreign investments and repatriation of profits. etc.
Due to the present economic necessity and past experiences, privatization of state-owned enterprises are being geared up by the present government.