Trade reforms are helping the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan open up its market, grow the economy, and improve prospects for businesses.

Trade processes and procedures have been successfully streamlined, providing expanded opportunities for private sector traders and investors.

The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Trade Facilitation Program supports the development of modern and effective customs administrations and management systems in South Asia. 


Phuentsholing, Bhutan—Phuentsholing is a trading town. On Bhutan’s southern border with India, it sits on a key trade route south to Bangladesh and the sea. For a landlocked economy like Bhutan, efficient trade across international borders is essential.

The South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation, or SASEC, program is helping Bhutan modernize its trade infrastructure and procedures to speed up transit times.

"Time is very important. Time means money for traders. We cannot even think of wasting a single second," shares TsheringYeshi, General Secretary, Bhutan Exporter’s Association.

Trade processes and procedures are being streamlined and made transparent. A mini dry port and land customs station are being built outside Phuentsholing, creating a single processing point for goods on the move.

"At present, we do not have the space. We rely on temporary sheds," continues Yeshi. 

Government officials at the border are also scattered in several locations. When the dry port in Pasakha is completed, traders will not have to go from place to place to get their paperwork done.

As trade continues to expand, another challenge is traffic congestion. 

"I export oranges and apples to Bangladesh and India. I have been in business for around 12 years now. The biggest problem we face is traffic congestion. An increasing volume of traffic from Jaigaon is creating traffic jams along the way," says Pemba, Owner, Peling Export House, Phuentsholing, Bhutan.

"The dry port will help decongest the route to the border, diverting heavy traffic to a single location. Clearing agents will be able to do their job there. Trans-shipments will also take place there. The second component of the project is the northern by-pass road," updates DC Dhimal, Project Coordinator, SASEC/RCP, Asian Development Bank.

The road at Phuentsholing-Thimphu will be connected through a new bridge to the northern by-pass road. The land customs station at Pasakha will help decongest traffic in the Phuentsholing area.

The Asian Development Bank is committed to supporting regional cooperation and integration among the SASEC economies.