Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said the trade gap between Bangladesh and China needs to be balanced as Bangladesh wants to achieve prosperity with the help and support of its friends, especially China.
“Our trade reflects Bangladesh’s import of goods of over US$ 6 billion from China and exports of less than half a billion dollars to China. This trade gap needs to be balanced,” she said.
Hasina was delivering her speech at a seminar on Socio-Economic Achievements of Bangladesh in Recent Years and Partnership with China at China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) in Beijing.
The Prime Minister, however, said Chinese investment in Bangladesh is on the rise from US$ 21.34 million in 2009 to US$ 181.94 million in 2012. “In 2013, some 49 Chinese companies invested US$ 310 million in our export processing zones."
“I believe our government with its total commitment and dedication would succeed in achieving our goal and go beyond to make Bangladesh a country of prosperity, progress and peace. I know that we shall succeed with the help and support of our friends, especially the government and the people of the Republic of China," she said recalling her previous visit to Beijing on March, 2010.
Showcasing the business opportunities in Bangladesh, Hasina said Bangladesh is recognised as an investment-friendly country as its offers the most liberal investment opportunities in South Asia, featuring 100 percent foreign equity with unrestricted exit policy; easy remittance of royalty; repatriation of profits; and protection of foreign investments.
Bangladesh also offers export-oriented Export Processing Zones for foreign investors, the Prime Minister said adding that seven new Exclusive Economic Zones are being established in selected areas of the country for foreign direct investment.
"Our energy prices are steady and we are hoping to generate soon 11,000 MW electricity compared to our current demand of 7,000 MW. New coal mines and gas fields have been discovered and gas production increased from 1,750 million cubic feet in 2009 to 2,250 million cubic feet in 2012 per day," she told her audience.
Besides, the country's workforce of young and industrious people and their availability to work at very competitive and affordable wages are an attraction. “Bangladesh also has duty free and quota free access of products of Bangladesh origin to the markets of the European Union, Canada, Australia and other developed countries.”
She said investment is also being made by many of its own expatriate professionals and workers whose number currently stands at 8.2 million spread over 155 countries. In the last five years, 2.04 million workers went abroad for employment and in 2013, their remittance home was US $ 14 billion.
The premier noted that at the time of its independence 43 years ago, Bangladesh was a war-ravaged country. "Today, it is on the verge of a takeoff from a least developed country to a middle-income one and will soon be on the way to being a fully developed country."
She said that the UN Secretary General’s comment in 2011 that Bangladesh is a model for the developing world has encouraged our government to pursue with vigor its “Vision 2021” strategy.
Goldman Sachs have included Bangladesh in its list of “Next Eleven” after BRIC; J.P Morgan in its “Frontier Five”; Standard and Poor have rated us a BB; Moody as Ba3 is also listing Bangladesh ahead of all South Asian countries except India, she said.
To ensure these, the Prime Minister said a committed leadership is needed and the people found it in her political party, the Awami League. It had led the struggle for liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 under the leadership of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, she added.
Hasina said Bangladesh and China enjoy excellent relations based on mutual respect, shared values and people to people links from ancient times through trade and travel.
"China considers Bangladesh as its partner of cooperation; our bilateral relations being forged without any ideological or regional bias. Bangladesh is thus committed to ‘One China Policy’ supporting China on the issues of Taiwan and Tibet," she added.
Answering to a question on BCIM-EC, Hasina said her government appreciates the initiative as China has proposed it. "We've taken our initiative in this regard and it will open up a new door. We'll try to implement it."
Sought comments about China's progress, the Prime Minister said that the progress of China is remarkable, encouraging while they have many things to learn from China.
Hasina told another questioner that there is a need to enhance cultural exchange, people-to-people contact between the two friendly countries.
The Prime Minister also hoped that with this visit of her, the friendly relations of the two countries would further enhance as well as trade and commerce will further get a boost.