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Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed addressing the naugural session of the Bangladesh Trade and Investment Summit 2016 here on Monday morning.

Dhaka seeks duty-free access to KL market for BD products

WT24 Desk

Kuala Lumpur – Bangladesh has sought duty-free market access for its products to Malaysian market to boost trade ties between the two countries further which is on an uptrend,UNB reports.

“We expected that Malaysia, like other countries, would also award us duty-free market access. But it’s yet to happen. I would like to request the Malaysian government to award duty-free market access for our products,” said Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed.

He made the request while addressing the inaugural session of the Bangladesh Trade and Investment Summit 2016 here on Monday morning. The trade balance between Bangladesh and Malaysia is always in favour of Malaysia.

In 2014-2015, export from Bangladesh to Malaysia was US$ 140 million while import from Malaysia to Bangladesh was US$ 1.2 billion. In 2015-2016, export from Bangladesh to Malaysia was US$ 190, which is an indication of a strong trade relation between the two countries.

The Commerce Minister called upon the Malaysian investors to undertake new investment ventures in fast growing manufacturing, services and infrastructure sectors.

Relocation of labour-intensive industries in the textile and accessories, furniture processing, agro-processing industries, electronics industries and other Small and Medium Industries from Malaysia might be the most promising options, he said.

While investment in the service sectors like tourism, healthcare and infrastructures like toll roads, bridges, power and gas generation would also be attractive to Malaysian investors, Tofail said.

“Malaysia and Bangladesh stand as natural allies. Closer cooperation in investment and trade between the two countries would bring immense impact on the development of their economies,” he added.

Malaysian Deputy Minister for International Trade and Investment Haji Ahmad Bin Maslam, Bangladesh High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur Md Shahidul Islam, BMCCI President Md Alamgir Jalil, chairman of the Summit organising committee Syed Nurul Islam and Managing Director and CEO of The City Bank Limited Sohail RK Hussain, among others, spoke on the occasion.

The Commerce Minister said the present government has undertaken an initiative to designate 100 Economic Zones throughout the country, where as of now 22 zones are selected where 19 are in the public sector and 3 are in the private sector.

“Malaysia can take the advantage of this opportunity and select an Economic Zone for Malaysian business,” he added. The Commerce Minister said Bangladesh is encouraging foreign investment and investors are welcomed to benefit from the incentives provided by Bangladesh.

Tofail said Bangladesh is becoming a regional hub where activities relating to assembling, manufacturing, trading and services are gaining prominence.

He said Bangladesh has been moving fast to undertake restructured reforms to create most friendly business environment under a market driven economy, with the major thrust coming from the private sector.

“We strongly believe there’re potentials of more Bangladeshi products for Malaysian market. Bangladeshi Commodities like Ceramic tableware, pharmaceuticals, leather & leather goods, potatoes, spices, raw jute & jute sacking have better market prospect in Malaysia,” Tofail said.

The Commerce Minister said Bangladesh is one of the most open economies in South Asia with an extensively liberalised trade and investment regime. “We’ve been vigorously pursuing a private sector driven export-led growth strategy.”

The Board of Investment (BOI) and Bangladesh Export Processing Zones (BEPZA) are providing institutional support services to the prospective investors, he told the Malaysian investors.

“Our government attaches top priority to attract foreign direct investment into Bangladesh with unrestricted equity participation virtually in all sectors of the economy.”

Tofail Ahmed said infrastructure development is another area where Bangladesh requires a massive investment. “Other area is electricity generation. Bangladesh also wants to improvise its rail transportation, widen its national highways and modernize the better operation of its two seaports at Chittagong and Mongla to facilitate its cargo movements.”

On signing Free Trade Agreement, the Commerce Minister said they are now working on the matter. The Malaysian Deputy Minister said the proposed FTA would certainly add momentum to the current trade relations. “It’ll be mutually beneficial for more access to each other’s markets for goods and services, and investment and removing barriers to doing business.”

High Commissioner Shahidul Islam said Malaysia is Bangladesh’s important partner and laid emphasis on working together. “Bangladesh is witnessing rapid transformation. In our journey, let us come together for our future. We need to grow and flourish, we need to create jobs and investment,” he said.

Syed Nurul Islam said Bangladesh is no more a cheap labour supplying country rather Bangladesh is a different country today. “I invite you all to visit Bangladesh and see what we offer for investors.”

Earlier, top Bangladeshi business leaders and analysts assembled here to talk about investment opportunities in Bangladesh and discuss ways to fetch a large-scale Malaysian investment in potential areas including energy and infrastructure.

They talked to their Malaysian counterparts on future business at the Trade and Investment Summit 2016 at the Royal Chulan Hotel in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

They spoke in three business sessions — ‘Bangladesh: The Most Preferred Investment Destination in South Asia’, ‘Energy and Infrastructure Investment Opportunities in Bangladesh’ and Trade: Challenges and Opportunities in Bangladesh’.

Former Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN and Chairman of Bangladesh Study Trust Dr AK Abdul Momen, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Kazi M Aminul Islam, Executive Director of Policy Research Institute (PRI) Dr Ahsan H Mansur, former FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain, senior economist of World Bank Group, Bangladesh Dr M Masrur Reaz, former DCCI President Asif Ibrahim and Managing Director of AK Khan Ltd Salauddin Kasem Khan, were among the speakers.

The BMCCI in collaboration with the High Commission of Bangladesh in Malaysia and Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) hosted the event with the theme ‘Sustainable Business: Road to Progress’.

The event was supported by Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA), Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA), Public Private Partnership Authority Bangladesh, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and High Commission of Malaysia in Bangladesh.

Representatives from City Bank Limited, Green Delta Insurance Company Limited, K-Link International (Bangladesh) Limited, Robi Axiata Limited, Premier Bank Limited, BBS Cables Ltd, Design Vision Associates Limited, Well Foods Limited, Alliant and Tenaga Nasional Berhad also took part in the summit.

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