Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks at the ninth China-South Asia Business Forum held at a conference centre in Kunming, China on Saturday. Photo: PID
Terming Bangladesh as a lucrative destination for foreign investment, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today urged the Chinese entrepreneurs to visit Bangladesh to explore the possibilities of increasing trade and investment.
"I welcome you all to be our partners in our business activities and to share together the gains and benefits, profits and prosperity as we journey forth as friends and partners to the future," she said.
The prime minister said she firmly believed that Chinese investment in Bangladesh would be profitable and worthwhile, particularly in manufacturing and service sectors.
She said while addressing Bangladesh-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum organized by China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CPIT) at Presidential Beijing Hotel here this afternoon.
Chairman of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCIPT) Jiang Zengwei presided over the function attended by leading Chinese business leaders, chiefs of corporate bodies, manufacturing and trading companies, investment groups, construction, power generating and engineering companies.
ERD Secretary of Bangladesh Mohammad Mejbahuddin, Bangladesh Ambassador in Beijing Muhammad Azizul Haque, President of Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kazi
Akram Uddin Ahmed, President of Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) Atiqul Islam, General Manager of Sany Heavy Industry Co. Ltd. Cui Yongqian and General Manager of Ningbo Four Seasons Import and Export Company Ltd Bao Huihong, among others, also spoke on the occasion.
The prime minister said Bangladesh is also uniquely placed between the markets of South and Southeast Asia and China, and is becoming a regional economic hub.
"Bangladesh's involvement in numerous regional trading frameworks and development of multi-modal connectivity with the neighbours will soon make it a center of bustling economic activity in the region," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is looking forward to the quicker progress of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC).
Highlighting the packages, the government is offering to the foreign investors, the prime minister said that Chinese investors may also participate in joint ventures with Bangladeshi entrepreneurs.
"They could invest in sectors not yet tapped such as
pharmaceuticals, ceramics, tourism, education, healthcare, road and rail communications, petrochemicals, and agro-based industries, among other things," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh has great admiration for the remarkable economic progress made by China. China is now the second largest economy in the world and is poised to become the largest in the coming decades.
"It augurs well that China is keen to do business with its neighbours, including Bangladesh," she said.
The prime minister said China remains one of Bangladesh's key development and cooperation partners. "China is supporting our infrastructure building efforts and has also given concessionary credit in some of our important initiatives," she
Sheikh Hasina said these have contributed to Bangladesh's endeavours to become a middle-income country through realization of "Vision 2021", which was a step forward towards "Sonar Bangla" or "Golden Bangladesh" as dreamt by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
In recent times, she said, China's support for Bangladesh has been gaining momentum. "We had recently sought China's assistance for some of our key areas of development during the period 2014- 18," she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh has sought China's participation and assistance in some of the country's mega projects as listed in our Joint Statement.
"Our two sides have also signed some agreements, including the construction of power plants, a river tunnel and the setting up of a Chinese industrial zone, to welcome Chinese investors to Bangladesh," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said a very positive development is a contract awarded by Bangladesh to the China Major Bridge Engineering Company to build the core structure of the 6.15 km bridge over the Padma river.
"We have also involved Chinese companies to construct a 1,320-MW coal- fired power plant in southern Bangladesh," she said.
Pointing out the huge trade imbalance between the two countries, the prime minister hoped that China would be importing more of Bangladeshi jute and jute products, leather and leather products, frozen fish, ceramics, lentils, etc to reduce the trade gap.
Sheikh Hasina said China has given duty-free access to over 4,700 Bangladeshi products under APTA since July 2010.
"Hopefully the remaining key exportable items from
Bangladesh would be included in China's duty-free and quota-free lists," she said.
In the 2013-14 fiscal, she said the total amount of
Bangladesh's import from China was nearly $7 billion, making China our top bilateral trade partner, and since 2007 the largest source of our imports.
The prime minister said Chinese investments have also been on the increase with 49 Chinese companies investing over $300 million in eight Bangladesh EPZs till December 2013.
"Around 300 more Chinese investors with investment proposals worth US $ 2.3 billion have registered with our Board of Investment," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Chinese companies like Huawei, CMEC, ZTE, are today in Bangladesh. Besides, she said, Chinese state-owned enterprises and private companies are making remarkable progress in power generation, infrastructure building, telecommunications, fertilisers, textiles, EMGs, leather, ceramics, packaging, accessories etc.
The prime minister said since the cost of production of certain products in China are increasing, factories producing those items can relocate in Bangladesh where the costs are a lot cheaper, particularly due to the very competitive and affordable wages of our young, energetic workforce.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh's FDI policies offer the
friendliest fiscal and financial incentives that include equal treatment of local and foreign investors, legal protection against nationalisation and expropriation, guarantee for expatriation of capital and dividend.
The prime minister said the policies have a provision of corporate tax holidays from five to seven years, concessionary duty on the import of machinery, export incentives, allowing 100 per cent foreign equity, and unrestricted exit policy.
Moreover, she said, Chinese investment is fully protected under the existing "Bilateral Investment Protection Treaty" and a "Bilateral Tax Convention".
"Another added attraction is that as an LDC, Bangladesh is enjoying duty-free and quota-free market access to the EU and almost all developed countries," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh also provides a market of 160 million people, 60 percent of whom are below the age of forty years.
"This young population is enterprising, talented and smart and can adapt to newer trades and technologies and they have been the driving force behind the huge growth of cellular telephones and ICT products," she said.
"Bangladesh ranks third in global IT freelancing destination as our government has spread ICT services in the entire country," she said.
E-services, she said, have helped employment of young people, raised the income level, reduced poverty, and improved quality of education and health, among other things.
"We are also increasing our power capacity to ensure that foreign investments thrive and prosper. At present, our current power need of 7,000 MW is met, though our production capacity exceeds 11,000 MW," she said.
The prime minister also informed the Chinese entrepreneurs about some indicators on Bangladesh's achievements during the last five years.
She said Bangladesh, during the period from 2009 till date, maintained a GDP growth rate of over 6 percent with 50 million people having joined the middle- income group from the low-income group.
"Our export earnings during the period have increased by 107 percent; remittances increased by 62 percent; foreign exchange reserves improved by 217 percent; and power capacity increased by 109 percent," she said, adding "Bangladesh is thus often mentioned as a "Model of Economic Development".