Speakers at a virtual discussion on Wednesday stressed the need for signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China to take the full advantage of duty free and quota free access of Bangladeshi products to the Chinese market.
The experts came up with the suggestion at a discussion on “Bangladesh-China Economic and Trade Relations in the aftermath of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic” jointly organized by Economic Reporters’ Forum (ERF) and Bangladesh China Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCCI).Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi joined the event as the chief guest while Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka Li Jiming, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Md. Sirazul Islam, Bangladesh Ambassador to China Mahbub Uz Zaman spoke as special guests.
International trade expert Economist Dr. Mohammad Abdur Razzaque presented the keynote paper on the topic.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said, "Although some progresses have been made for signing an FTA with China, we still need to put a lot of efforts to conclude the negotiations and materialize the prospect of the FTA. I believe this will help Bangladesh to face the LDC graduation challenges."
He said the trade balance of between the two countries is now heavily in favour of China as out of around $12.09 billion bilateral trade in FY20, Bangladesh's export to China only accounted for $0.60 billion while imports from China totaled an immense $11.49 billion.
"I strongly believe that by fully utilizing duty free access facility, the trade imbalance with China can be reduced in a greater extent," Tipu said.
Touching upon the vital COVID-19 vaccine issue, Chinese Ambassador to Dhaka Li Jiming said despite the huge domestic demand, China has tried its best to supply vaccines to Bangladesh and Dhaka has already received some 0.5 million doses of vaccines from Beijing as gift.Besides, he informed that another 0.6 million doses of vaccines are likely to arrive in Dhaka by June 13.
The Chinese Ambassador said a "very pragmatic" discussion is going on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses from China to meet Bangladesh's needs.
He also said there is a very "encouraging progress" between the two countries over joint production or co-production of vaccines.
Turning to the issue of signing FTA, he said that it is high time to really consider an FTA combined with an investment deal between China and Bangladesh and this poses a huge potential for Bangladesh to boost its exports to China.
Regarding the COVID-19 related support, Ambassador Li said China would never forget when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina showed solidarity with Chinese people by sending badly needed medical supplies to China when it was the most challenging time with the outbreak of the pandemic in China.
He also termed Bangladesh's 6.1 percent GDP growth in the outgoing fiscal year as "very encouraging". Li said he was fully confident that under the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, there would be more areas of cooperation in different fields like in 5G communication, high-speed railway as well as the G to G and PPP initiatives would get momentum in the post pandemic era.
BIDA Executive Chairman Md Sirazul Islam said the authority would facilitate and expedite Investment from Chinese investors. "We want to see more FDI from China. BIDA is always ready to support Investment promotion and in policy advocacy,"
Sirazul said the Chinese investors could take the opportunity to invest in Bangladesh and thus export to China.
Bangladesh Ambassador to China Mahbub Uz Zaman said there is an excellent platform for cooperation between the two countries for further consolidating the bilateral relations.
The Bangladesh Ambassador to China said the Bangladeshi knitwear and Jute are poised to take advantage from the duty free and quota free market access in China.
ERF President Sharmeen Rinvy and Joint Secretary of BCCCI Al Mamun Mridha, among others, also spoke at the programme with BCCCI President Gazi Golam Murtoza in the chair.
ERF General Secretary, S M Rashidul Islam moderated the discussion.