Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina receives her Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport yesterday. Photo: PID
Thailand wants to double its two-way trade -- export and import -- with Bangladesh by 2015 in an effort to boost commerce and investment, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said in Dhaka yesterday.
â€œThere's a great potential for further expansion of economic partnership between the two countriesâ€¦we need closer cooperation between our governments and more importantly between our private sectors,â€ said Shinawatra.
There are several areas Thailand would be focusing on, she said at a dinner hosted by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry in her honour at Radisson Hotel last night.
Shinawatra arrived in Dhaka around 5:30pm on a two-day official visit.
â€œFirst connectivity, both land and sea, especially sea linkage through Myanmarâ€¦this route will help boost our economies, reducing transportation cost and saving time,â€ said the first female premier of Thailand.
She termed Bangladesh's six percent plus GDP growth "quite healthy" and added that Bangladesh had strong potentials for further expansion of trade and business with her country.
â€œI will discuss about all the issues related to trade and investment with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to strengthen partnership between Bangladesh and Thailand," she told the "Business Networking Dinner".
"We will increase our cooperation with Bangla-deshi government to increase trade and investment."
Shinawatra, who assumed the office of prime minister in July last year, said food industry was another area that deserves attention.
â€œWe will enhance our cooperation in food and agriculture sector -- especially on halal food sector," she said, adding that she had already asked her deputies to explore these areas.
Speaking on the occasion, FBCCI President Kazi Akramuddin Ahmed sought duty-free access for Bangladeshi products to Thailand to help grow the trade volume.
Presently, Bangladesh exporters do not get tariff facilities in Thailand, he said, adding: "As a less developing country and member of the World Trade Organisation, we request your government to provide duty-free access for all Bangladeshi products to the Thai market," said Ahmed.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Commerce Minister GM Quader, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Faruk Khan, FBCCI first Vice-president Monwara Hakim Ali, Vice-president M Helal Uddin, FBCCI directors, diplomats, business leaders and top government officials attended the dinner, among others.
Addressing the programme, Muhith said Bangladesh had many things to learn from Thailand that had had great achievements in various areas.
â€œWe expect much better trade with Thailandâ€¦there's a scope for further expansion of trade and investment,â€ the minister said.
Bangladesh's export to Thailand was worth $51.43 million and import $879.52 million in 2011-2012. â€œWe believe that more trade and investment can reduce the trade gap,â€ said the FBCCI president.
â€œWe now feel that more than trading, we need strategic partnership not only with Thailand but also with our neighbours like India and Myanmar,â€ he added.
According to him, it is time to activate and implement the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sector Technical and Economical Cooperation.
â€œOur cooperation should be widened regionally and bilaterally by establishing land routes to Thailand through Myanmar, exporting manpower, initiating cooperation between ASEAN and Saarc, attracting foreign investmentâ€¦collaborating in hospital management, building capacity in nurses' training and promoting tourism.â€
Ahmed said Bangladeshis spend millions of dollars every year for treatment in Thailand, and invited Thai investors to set up world-class hospitals, diagnostic centres and hotels in Bangladesh.
Earlier in the day, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received Shinawatra at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
She was given a guard of honour there.
The Thai PM is leading a 108-member delegation, including Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul and PM's Office Ministers Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan and Sansanee Nakpong.
Shinawatra is scheduled to visit the National Mausoleum in Savar and Bangabandhu Museum at Dhanmondi-32 in the capital today.
Hasina will host a lunch in honour of her Thai counterpart at Sonargaon Hotel.
Shinawatra will also have talks with Opposition Leader and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni before leaving for Bangkok around 4:00pm today.