China keen to cut titanic trade gap
Bangladesh deserves a proper share from China's outbound investment that will reach $500 billion in five years, Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jun said yesterday.
It will help reduce the current trade gap between the two countries, the Chinese envoy said at a programme of the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital.
“It is projected that in the coming five years, China's import will reach some US$10 trillion, its outbound investment will reach US$500 billion and the number of its tourists may well exceed 400 million. What I am interested most and working hard for is that Bangladesh deserves to have a proper share,” he said.
Li Jun explained why Bangladesh matters to China and what is the current state and prospects of bilateral cooperation between Bangladesh and China.
He said bilateral trade volume between the two countries reached $10.3 billion last year with Bangladesh suffering a big deficit.
“We need to treat the trade gap seriously. We should take some concrete efforts to reduce trade imbalance. Try to attract more Chinese investment in Bangladesh. This will help reduce trade imbalance,” said the Chinese envoy.
Bangladesh is a booming economy with huge potentials. It has become self-sufficient in rice and is on way to achieve food self-sufficiency with limited arable lands, he said.
“It [Bangladesh] is now the second largest apparel exporter although it is not a cotton producer … it is the second largest foreign currency reserve country in South Asia.”
Bangladesh achieved all those wonders despite having insufficient infrastructure and periodical political instability, said the Chinese ambassador.
Li Jun also encouraged the two major political parties in Bangladesh to have dialogue to resolve their differences for a sustained political stability.
“It is sure Bangladesh is still on course to make wonders with its most energetic, dynamic, creative, generous and hard-working people and key geographic location.”
Noting that China and Bangladesh are on the first track of development, he said, “I believe two engines, namely in bilateral level and regional level, will drive the two countries' cooperation to an ever growing new height.”
“In bilateral level, two waves will certainly happen. One is Chinese investment and the other wave is infrastructure construction cooperation,” said the Chinese Ambassador.
At the regional level, the establishment of Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC) will bring great opportunities of cooperation in many areas, such as construction of Sonadia deep seaport, power plants and river tunnel, between the two countries.
This type of cooperation will help turn Bangladesh's geographic advantage into economic competitiveness, and the neighbouring countries, including China, will benefit from it, he observed.
China is now restructuring its economy and the labour-intensive industries will be relocated. “I think, Bangladesh is the best destination as it has massive good quality labour forces and investment friendly policy,” said the envoy.
He said grants and soft loans from Chinese side are also an important part of bilateral cooperation. “…we received a set of 14 projects for US$ 8.6 billion soft loans. We are now working on that.”
Li Jun said there should be an exclusive Export Processing Zone (EPZ) for China to allow its investors to have easier access in Bangladesh. He also proposed conducting a study to see the possibilities of a Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.
Expressing his country's interest in building a deep seaport in Bangladesh, Li Jun said, “So far as I know, some Chinese companies showed their interest to take up the project. I do believe Chinese companies have the ability to do such huge project.”
He expressed dissatisfaction over the complexities related to land acquisition and power supply while implementing projects by the Chinese companies in Bangladesh.
Li Jun mentioned hartal as a hurdle in implementing projects timely, apart from not getting promised support from Bangladesh government at times.
DCAB president Moinul Alam chaired the programme, and its secretary Angur Nahar Monti gave the welcome speech.