Seeking duty-free access for more Bangladeshi products to the Chinese market, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today said, allocating a separate economic and industrial zone in Chittagong for Chinese investors is under her government’s consideration.
"Our existing Export Processing Zones are also attractive for investment. In addition, the Economic Zones Act 2010 has created seven exclusive economic zones across the country,” the prime minister said.
“These would be of interest to the Chinese investors for whom we’re also considering allocating a separate economic and industrial zone in Chittagong,” she added.
Hasina was delivering her keynote speech at the 9th China-South Asia Business Forum held at Haigeng Conference Centre in Kunming of China in the morning.
Apart from involvement in infrastructure development and energy capacity building, she also sought Chinese participation in joint ventures or individual investment in pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, shipbuilding, agro-based industries, textiles, ceramics, leather, tourism, manufacturing, ICT, training and development of human resources, design and planning in high valued added sectors.
The prime minister said Chinese investors may also find interest in Bangladesh's special investment programmes like building international airports, seaports, waterways transport, expressways under our Public-Private-Partnership and build-own-operate-transfer schemes.
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"I, therefore, invite the leaders of business, trade and industry of the People’s Republic of China to visit Bangladesh and appraise the realities first hand," she said.
"I’m sure you’ll find the environment and opportunities, most attractive. We, in Bangladesh, would very much like to have you with us as partners in sharing our profits and gains as we journey together on the road to progress and prosperity," Hasina said.
Mentioning that Bangladesh’s export to China was only US$ 458.12 million in fiscal 2012-2013 against the huge imports of US$ 6.307 billion, the premier said more of Bangladeshi products need to get duty-free access to its market to reduce the growing trade gap.
She said China also needs to import more of Bangladesh apparels, pharmaceuticals, handicrafts, ceramics, leather products and fish.
"Also, more investment by Chinese entrepreneurs in Bangladesh could help reduce the trade gap. Their manufactures in Bangladesh could also benefit from our duty- and quota free access to the European Union, Canadian, Australian and other developed markets," Hasina told her audience.
The prime minister said Bangladesh's investment regime is the most liberal in South Asia as its National Industrial Policy 2010 allows 100 percent foreign equity with unrestricted exit policy; easy remittance of royalty; repatriation of profits: protection of foreign investment and steady energy prices.
"Our young and industrious workforce with very competitive and affordable wages is also very attractive. Bangladesh’s strategic geographic location also makes its exports accessible to a huge market of 3 billion consumers of South and South East Asia and China," she added.
Hasina said Bangladesh has a vibrant trade, established manufacturing industries, undertaking human resources development, vibrant private sector, infrastructure building; a sound macroeconomic management, robust banking and financial sector; increase in the flow of remittances and FDIs.
Besides, she said, Bangladesh's ever-expanding multifaceted social safety nets and the use of ICT and delivery of e-services have energised the country's socioeconomic activities, thus creating an enabling environment for business and investments.
Hasina said Bangladesh is now producing products from ‘ships to chips’, and its seaports, land ports and airports are facilitating local and international business.
"In fact, Bangladesh is moving up the value chain by developing a knowledge-based economy, technical capacity building, enterprise development, and an integrated policy approach to investment. I believe that China as our trusted friend would support our efforts in achieving our targets," she added.
The prime minister said Bangladesh and China’s relationship is based on close and comprehensive partnership, which has evolved through cooperation based on mutual trust, respect and earnest desire to strengthen the two countries’ relations.
She noted that China has attained tremendous economic and technological progress, and is moving towards becoming the largest economy in the world, with the economic emancipation of its people.
In this connection, Hasina observed that this has been possible due to China’s dynamic and visionary leadership. “The close proximity of Kunming and the Yunnan province hold a special place in Bangladesh's relations with China. We also believe that early realisation of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar-Economic-Corridor would bring socio-economic benefits for us all in the region," she added.
Highlighting her government's various successes in the economic sector, she said in between 2009 and 2013, Bangladesh’s achievements have been remarkable with, over 6 percent annual GDP growth rate; 50 million people joining the middle income group; export earnings increasing by 107 percent; remittances by 62 percent; foreign currency reserve by 217 percent; power capacity by 109 percent.
"Our liberal investment policies; sound credit ratings; young workforce available at affordable wages; have been attracting more and more FDI every year. Chinese assistance in our infrastructure building like roads, bridges, highways, urban transportation and power generations have helped move our economy forward," Hasina said.
About trade, she said China is one of Bangladesh's largest trading partners and the largest source of import.
Hasina also said Bangladesh is today poised to become a middle-income country, thus, fulfilling ‘Vision 2021’, which will be a step towards realising ‘Sonar Bangla’ or ‘Golden Bangladesh’ as envisioned by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The prime minister also urged the businessmen of the South Asian countries to come up and invest in Bangladesh.
CCPIT Chairman Jiang Zengwei, CPC Secretary Qin Guangrong, President of Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry Yunnan Ismail Asif, Saarc Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa and Vice-President of the Maldives Mohamed Jamil Ahmed also spoke at the forum.
Secretary General of Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry Iqbal Tabish moderated the session.