Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Canada has crossed the $2-billion mark for the first time, with Bangladesh's shipment of apparel leading the way.
Businessmen and diplomats also expect the volume of trade to cross $5 billion by 2021. Trade between the two countries stood at $2.48 billion in fiscal 2014-15; Bangladesh's export to Canada was recorded at $1.48 billion, while it imported goods worth $900.12 million, according to Canada Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CanCham).
Higher export to Canada would significantly help Bangladesh achieve its target to export garments worth $50 billion by 2021 as 95 percent of Bangladesh's exports to Canada are apparel items, said Masud Rahman, president of CanCham.
“We are optimistic that the new wave of opportunities and the growth momentum will energise our private sector to add new success stories in the coming years -- opportunities that clearly mark the export vision for 2021,” Rahman said at a discussion on Canada Bangladesh trade at the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (DCCI) office in the capital.
Garment exports to Canada have been increasing rapidly for the zero-duty benefit under its least developed countries (LDCs) quota. The other export items to Canada include leather and leather goods, jute and jute goods and ceramics.
CanCham and DCCI jointly organised the discussion on the occasion of bilateral trade crossing the $2-billion mark. Businessmen, trade body leaders, exporters, diplomats, importers and traders attended the discussion.
One of the key pillars of the relations between the two countries is the garment sector, said Benoit-Pierre Laramee, Canadian high commissioner to Bangladesh. Many of the largest Canadian apparel retailers source products from Bangladesh, Laramee added.
Recognising the importance of this sector for Bangladesh and for bilateral ties, Canada is actively supporting efforts to increase worker rights and safety, he said.
Canada contributes eight million Canadian dollars to the International Labour Organisation to help the Bangladesh government build its capacity to ensure that workplaces are safe.
Earlier this year, Canada joined the Sustainability Compact, which Bangladesh had signed with the EU after the Rana Plaza building collapse, committing to responsible business behaviour.
“As Bangladesh develops, our bilateral relationship is shifting from aid to trade. Canada remains a significant provider of development assistance to Bangladesh, but increasingly this assistance is focused on strengthening Bangladesh's ability to compete in the global economy,” Laramee said.
Roger Hubert, regional head of Swedish retail giant H&M for Bangladesh and Pakistan, said the export trend of garments from Bangladesh to Canada shows that it would be able to cross $5 billion by 2020.
However, Bangladesh needs to focus on saving the environment in the production of textiles and garments, he added.
Hossian Khaled, president of DCCI, urged Canadian entrepreneurs to invest more in Bangladesh in IT, skills development and aviation, as the North American country is resourceful in these sectors.
Rupali Chowdhury, president of the Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce and Industry, called upon the government to improve infrastructure in the country and diversify exports to reduce overdependence on apparel items.