In a major step towards economic integration, Bangladesh and the Maldives on Thursday agreed to enter into a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) to boost trade and commerce between the two countries by reducing tariffs.
The both countries reached the consensus during a bilateral meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and visiting Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih led their respective delegations at the talks.
The signing of the PTA will be the first stage of economic integration between the two South Asian countries.
Earlier, Bangladesh signed its first PTA with Bhutan on December 6, 2020 allowing duty-free access to a range of goods between the two countries. This is the first PTA Bangladesh has signed with any country in the world.
Both Bangladesh and the Maldives also agreed to expedite the signing of several other agreements, including ones for establishing direct commercial shipping link between Male and three seaports in Bangladesh to further expand trade, tourism and people-to-people contact between the two countries and on avoidance of double taxation to promote trade and investment.
Highly placed sources at the PMO and Foreign Ministry said the entire range of bilateral relations, and regional and international issues of common concern were discussed at the meeting. The two sides agreed to expand cooperation in prospective areas, including trade, investment, connectivity, healthcare and higher education.
On Dhaka’s proposal to ink the PTA, the Maldives President said Bangladesh is a potential trade partner of his country and expressed the hope that the PTA will be signed in near future.At the meeting, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that Biman Bangladesh Airlines flights to the Maldives will begin soon, bolstering the air connectivity between the two countries.
President Solih welcomed the announcement, saying it will improve the air connectivity between the capitals of the two countries.
Bangladesh offered training courses for the Maldivian peacekeepers at the Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support Operation Training (BIPSOT).
Bangladesh also reiterated its policy to extend continued support towards development of human resources in the Maldives in different fields.
Dhaka also urged Male to send more students to Bangladesh for higher studies and showed its interest to provide skills development training for Maldivian nationals.
Bangladesh called upon the Maldives to import ready-made garments, processed food, agro products, halal food, jute products, pharmaceuticals and ships from Bangladesh. The Maldives side said they will cooperate with Bangladesh in collecting tuna fish from deep sea.
President Solih shared his best wishes to all Bangladeshis as the country commemorates the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He also warmly congratulated them on the golden jubilee of the country’s independence.
He highly appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visionary leadership in transforming Bangladesh into a developed country by 2041. He congratulated Bangladesh’s graduation from the group of Least Developed Countries.
The Maldives President lauded the outstanding diplomatic relations that characterise the two countries’ bilateral relationship, strengthened through longstanding historical and cultural ties that bind Bangladesh and the Maldives.
He expressed his confidence that his current visit to Bangladesh will help elevate that relationship to new heights.
Reciprocating the President’s views, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated that the Maldives is a trusted partner and friend to Bangladesh.
President Solih affirmed that his government is committed to resolving the problems faced by Bangladeshi migrant workers in the Maldives and reiterated his government’s pledge to uphold and protect migrant workers’ rights as part of the government’s wider regularisation programme.
Lauding the significant contributions of expatriate Bangladeshi workers, he said all Bangladeshis in the Maldives will be vaccinated at free of cost.
In this context, President Solih also proposed the recruitment of doctors and nurses from Bangladesh to address the shortage of medical professionals in his country.
On crucial climate change issue, the two leaders agreed to work closely in various multilateral platforms, including the United Nations and Climate Vulnerable Forum. The two sides also discussed the forcible displaced Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh and the Maldives President assured Bangladesh to work with it for early repatriation of the Rohingya people to in their motherland Rakhine State in Myanmar.
The President and Prime Minister both shared their delight that the two governments signed four memorandums of understanding (MoUs). They expressed their satisfaction that these MoUs will further progress collaboration.
The President and the Prime Minister underscored the importance of participating in the international fora to resolve shared large-scale issues such as climate change and regional security. Concluding the talks, the two leaders expressed their resolve to continue bilateral relationship on a positive trajectory.
Before the bilateral talks, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Solih held a one-to-one meeting at the PMO.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Md Tazul Islam, Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Ahmed Kaikaus and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen were present from the Bangladesh side.
From the Maldives side, Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid, Economic Development Minister Fayyaz Ismail, Foreign Secretary Abdul Ghafoor and Secretary (Foreign Relations) at the President’s Office Ms. Sabra Ibrahim were present.
Meanwhile, the Maldives President held a meeting with President Md Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban on Thursday evening and discussed various bilateral issues, including one to explore cooperation in potential sectors like trade and investment to take forward the bilateral partnership.
Following the meeting, President Md Abdul Hamid hosted a state banquet in honour of the visiting Maldives President.
Ending his two-day state visit, Maldives President Ibrahim Solih left Dhaka for Male in the early hours of today.
Foreign Minister Momen saw him off at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.