Thirteen Bangladeshi entities and the same number of Chinese companies yesterday signed 13 joint venture agreements involving $13.6 billion to increase bilateral trade between the two countries.
Under the agreements, Chinese investors will invest in infrastructures, power, railways, sports and special economic zone, said Sun Xiao, a deputy director general of China Chamber of International Commerce.
Of the Bangladeshi bodies, 11 are private companies including Beximco Group and Meghna Group. The other two are the Ministry of Youth and Sports and state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board.
On the Chinese side, around eight are state-owned and the rest are from the private sector, Xiao said at a media briefing after the signing ceremony at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.
Under one of the agreements, a Chinese construction company will build a cricket stadium at Cox's Bazar while Beximco and Meghna signed deals for power generation.
“The 13 agreements are different from the other agreements signed in the last two days before and during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bangladesh,” Xiao said after a forum meeting among the Bangladeshi and Chinese businessmen.
The companies did not reveal the details of their investment plans yet, he said. Seven Chinese state-owned companies signed investment and import agreements worth $186 million with 13 Bangladeshi companies on Thursday, aiming to boost bilateral trade.
Before the signing of the agreements, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at the Bangladesh-China Business Forum held at Sonargaon Hotel demanded duty-free facility for all Bangladeshi products exported to China.
Currently, Bangladesh enjoys duty benefit on export of 5,054 products to China under bilateral agreement. Besides, under the WTO rules, Bangladesh as a least developed country (LDC) enjoys duty benefit on export of 97 percent Bangladesh-originated products to China.
“Had the Free Trade Agreement been in place between the two countries, both the partners would have benefited,” the minister said.
“We have decided to award a special economic zone for Chinese investors at Chittagong to attract more Chinese investment in the country.”
The minister also said the exports from Bangladesh to China will reach $2 billion in next three to four years as Bangladesh exported goods worth $808.14 million in fiscal year 2015-16.
In the last fiscal year, Bangladesh imported goods worth $9.64 billion from China, the largest trading partner of Bangladesh.
Tofail said Bangladesh's investment policy for foreigners is very flexible and the investment is legally protected. So, the Chinese investors can invest in Bangladesh.
Regarding the widely discussed Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor, the minister said once the agreement on this is fully operationalised, all the participating countries would be benefited in carrying goods.
“We believe that more Chinese investment will come to Bangladesh once the special economic zone for Chinese investors is set up,” said Chen Zhou, vice-chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT).
Bangladesh would also be immensely benefited from the Chinese investment in the special zone because of the employment generation from such initiative, he said. He suggested Bangladesh transform and upgrade its products for higher growth of exports to China.
It is a matter of encouragement that Bangladesh joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank from which Bangladesh would be immensely benefited, he said.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and CCPIT jointly organised the forum meeting.
FBCCI President Abdul Matlub Ahmad sought Chinese investment in agro-processed goods, leather and leather goods, ICT products, frozen foods, jute and jute goods, pharmaceuticals and shipbuilding sectors.
“If we look at infrastructure, multi-modal transport, ports, and connectivity are being developed, many of which are progressing with the support from China,” Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said.
Moreover, several investment agreements were signed between Bangladeshi and Chinese companies at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) yesterday.