Sunday, 29 May, 2022

Switzerland sees ‘massive potential’ to boost trade, investment in Bangladesh

Switzerland sees ‘massive potential’ to boost trade, investment in Bangladesh

Switzerland sees “massive potential” in expanding trade and investment ties with Bangladesh, along with close collaboration on knowledge partnerships.

“Trade and investment is a domain that has gradually picked up. We want to focus more (in this area) with Bangladesh,” said Ambassador of Switzerland to Bangladesh Nathalie Chuard, sharing three elements crucial in the future relationship with Bangladesh, reports UNB.  Apart from trade and investment, the Swiss envoy mentioned two other elements - development and sustainability; and global challenges and multilateralism.

While delivering her keynote speech at Cosmos Dialogue held virtually and premiered on Wednesday night, she described how both the two countries can continue partnering together towards a better future, and innovation, where her country is a leader.

Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, hosted the dialogue titled “Bangladesh-Switzerland Relations: Prognosis for the Future” as part of its ongoing Ambassador's Lecture Series.

In her opening remarks, Cosmos Foundation Executive Director Nahar Khan said Switzerland remains one of most steadfast friends of Bangladesh on the international stage, too.

Over the last five decades, she said, bilateral relations between the two countries have grown broader and deeper, including on economic and international cooperation, humanitarian aid, as well as cultural and political exchanges.

The session was chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, a renowned scholar-diplomat and  former Advisor on Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Caretaker Government.

Former Managing Director & CEO of Mutual Trust Bank Limited Anis A. Khan, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Fahmida Khatun and Honorary Advisor Emeritus, Cosmos Foundation Ambassador (Retd) Tariq A Karim comprised the panel of discussants.

Ambassador Chuard mentioned Switzerland’s bid for a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council for the term 2023-2024. “Things are looking quite good," she said about her country's prospect in election in next June.

She said what they don't have in population; they make up for it in innovation and quality; and that has paid off since they are now among the 20 biggest economies on the planet.

“Here, I see many positive developments if and when we can effectively and collectively combine Swiss excellence in technology with the resilient entrepreneurial spirit of Bangladesh,” she said while talking about “evolving and broadening” relations.

Describing the LDC graduation as a remarkable success for Bangladesh, the envoy said it comes with a number of challenges.

The country will have to diversify its economy, further improve ease of doing business and investment climate, and agree on new trade regimes with many of its key trading partners, Chuard said.

She noted that the level of foreign direct investments remains low though investments are crucial to bring Bangladesh to its next level of development.

On their new country programme for the years 2022-2025, the ambassador said it also complements the support for more trade and direct foreign investments.

In the years to come, Chuard said they will partner with Bangladesh – the government, the civil society and international organisations present here - to build the country back better, greener and fairer, and progress with a sustainable transition towards graduation from the LDC category.

The ambassador said economic growth and LDC graduation cannot be inclusive and sustainable in the long run without further improvements to the rule of law and good governance.

Therefore, she said, Switzerland will continue its traditional engagement in the domain of human rights and quality basic services, including targeted social protection of particularly vulnerable people.

Mentioning that this delta country is highly exposed to climate change, Chuard said, Switzerland will join forces and work hard with Bangladesh in this domain.

“We are committed to considerably ramp up our program in the area of climate change adaptation and mitigation, disaster risk reduction, and environmental sustainability, '' she noted. She said she is looking forward to working with Bangladesh to pursue their actions in favour of peace, international law, sustainable development and human rights in the multilateral fora.

Switzerland, she said, has invested over $1 billion in development cooperation since Bangladesh’s independence, with additional significant amounts channeled to the country through different international organizations.

Bilateral trade volume has crossed the $1 billion mark last year. “And for a country that has approximately the same population as Chattogram, it is a substantial result and it certainly makes us one of the most active trading partners of Bangladesh,” Chuard said.

Dr Iftekhar said Switzerland ranks at the top of the world’s all-rounder countries for its political sagacity, economic stability, technological capacity and sharp business acumen.

“That is what makes Switzerland such an enviable country not just to live in, but also to work with," he added.

Mentioning Switzerland’s political sagacity, economic stability, technological capacity, sharp business sense and acumen, the foreign affairs expert said that is what makes Switzerland such an enviable country not just to live in, but also to work with. “And that is also Bangladesh's experience of working with Switzerland over the last 50 years.”

IT, Research & Education

Highlighting Bangladesh’s success story in the RMG sector, Anis A Khan said over the last five decades, Switzerland emerged as a reliable development and economic partner; and the cooperation in education, research and innovation between the two countries is extremely important.

“Let’s work closely on education and research; team up with our universities in Bangladesh to see how we can improve,” said the former banker who visited Switzerland and extensively traveled across the country.

Fahmida Khatun said Switzerland can enhance cooperation with Bangladesh in the case of humanitarian support, support in the SDG implementation and climate change mitigation efforts.

“Bangladesh is undergoing double graduations--from a least developed country to developing country in 2021 and then from a lower middle-income country to upper-middle-income country… so we need to prepare for all those future milestones,” she observed.

The economist said Switzerland also can help Bangladesh build the capacity of its human resources by creating more scope for Bangladeshi students to pursue higher education in the renowned educational institutions of the country with scholarships.

Former Ambassador Tariq Karim said Switzerland's experience in its own development, growth and going forward, is what Bangladesh can reap large dividends from.

“We need to invest more in skill development, and this is where Switzerland can help us,” he said.