Bangladesh, Australia keen to boost economic ties

Diplomatic Correspondent

12 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh and Australia have expressed desires to deepen and widen bilateral economic cooperation in a wide range of areas between the two nations. 

As Bangladesh graduates from the least developed country status, both sides acknowledged the importance of greater engagement particularly in the areas of agriculture, water resource management, power, energy and mineral resources, trade, investment, human resource development, ICT, defense and blue economy. 

They hoped for closer collaboration to address common challenges and opportunities in Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean regions. 

These were discussed at the Senior Officials Talks held on Thursday between the two foreign offices on a virtual platform as part of the regular Foreign Office Consultations (FOC), said Foreign Ministry.

Earlier on March 9, Australian Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne called on his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen and discussed bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest, including the Rohingya issue, Climate Change and Commonwealth.

Their discussion also focused on recalibrating the bilateral relations more towards trade, investment and human resource development.

Foreign Minister Momen sought intensifying Australian support for early resolution of the Rohingya crisis.

In Thursday’s talks, the Australian side congratulated Bangladesh on her celebration of the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabadhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of Independence.

Bangladesh side recalled with gratitude the bipartisan support of Australian lawmakers and the people during her War of Liberation.

Both the countries highlighted the excellent bilateral relations based on historical ties, the important contribution of diaspora and shared values and common aspirations for peace, progress and prosperity.

Australia reaffirmed its commitment to support Bangladesh’s recovery from COVID-19 and to extend assistance to Bangladesh’s priority areas through the Australian development programmes. 

The two sides also expressed satisfaction in the progress made in creating a platform for discussing trade and investment related matters and also resumption of direct air cargo transportation from Bangladesh.

The talks involved productive exchange of views on the challenges in the Indian Ocean region, Myanmar, a durable solution to the Rohingya crisis, the importance of human rights, and on other current global issues including climate change.  Officials acknowledged the shared security interests, including cooperation in cyber security, fighting transnational crime, countering terrorism and human trafficking; and the importance both sides place on defence cooperation.

Australia appreciated that Bangladesh was bearing a significant burden in hosting the Rohingyas and also provided an update on Australia’s humanitarian assistance for them.

Both sides stressed the need for early, voluntary, safe, and sustainable return of the Rohingyas  and  reintegration of the returnees into the Myanmar society, with international support.

They also agreed that the solution to the crisis remained within Myanmar and creation of a conducive environment there was necessary for the repatriation of the Rohingyas to their ancestral homes in the northern Rakhaine province.

Bangladesh also stressed that if the Rohingyas could not be repatriated within a short span of time, it would have ramifications for the entire region and beyond.

In Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee year, Australia and Bangladesh looked forward to building on the existing strong foundations to ensure that Asia-Pacific region remained secure, open and prosperous. 

The two sides also agreed to commemorate the 50th year of establishment of diplomatic relations in a befitting manner in 2022 and hold the next Foreign Office Consultations the same year.

Bangladesh side was led by Khondker M. Talha, Director General for East Asia and Pacific of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while Gary Cowan, First Assistant Secretary, North and South Asia Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade headed the Australian side.

Bangladesh High Commissioner in Canberra Md. Sufiur Rahman and Australian High Commissioner in Dhaka Jeremy Brewer also participated in the talks.