Business leaders of Bangladesh and Japan have called for removing all trade barriers, including customs clearance and licensing problems, to explore untapped trade and economic potential between the two countries.
They made the call at a roundtable discussion titled “Materialising Japan-Bangladesh Strategic Partnership: Diplomatic, Economic and People-to-People Relations” organised by Pan-Asia Research Institute (PARI), a Japan-based multi-modal Asia and Pacific-focused think-tank, at Japanese Embassy in Dhaka on Saturday.
Bangladeshi discussants also sought support from Japan in transforming technology, knowledge sharing, skill development, importing labour force, resolving Rohingya issues, mitigating climate change impacts and strengthening mutual cooperation.
Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Iwama Kiminori said, “In last December, we launched a join study group to find out more possibilities of Japan and Bangladesh. We have already held two meetings.”
“Japan has set up Official Security Assistance (OSA) framework for armed forces, and regional allies to deepen military ties. Bangladesh was selected as one of the four candidate countries of the OSA. This shows how much importance Japan attaches to Bangladesh,” he also said.
The ambassador added that they had started negotiations with Bangladesh on an agreement on ‘Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology’. “The discussion is going on in a positive manner.”
Kiminori said that the relations between Bangladesh and Japan witnessed a significant jump in the last decade during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Bangladesh in 2014 which reached a comprehensive level.
“However, the preparation is underway for the next phase of discussions concerning enhanced connectivity in India, Bangladesh, and Japan. This trilateral interaction, headed by India, marks a significant step forward in bolstering regional ties and exploring avenues for increased connectivity in the border areas and northeastern region of the country,” he added.
The matter of competiveness is important for Bangladesh, he said, adding that Japan has longstanding relation with ASEAN countries. “I think Bangladesh learns every perspective. Trade investment, agreement, and initiative how we can manage. We are in positive development,” he explained.
The total bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Japan stood at $3.79 billion in the fiscal year 2021-22.
Rohingya repatriation support sought
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam thanked Japan for its contribution to Bangladesh's infrastructure development. Visit by the prime ministers of the two countries has brought special momentum to the relationship between the two countries.
“We see a brilliant infrastructure projects supported by Japan as solutions to many of the problems the country and its people have been facing. However, trade and investment between Bangladesh and Japan have gone up. For the first time, bilateral trade crossed $4 billion,” he also said.
“We hope that Japan will step up efforts to help resolve the Rohingya crisis,” Shahriar added.
Managing Director of Apex Footwear Ltd Sayed Nasim Manzur said there are some barriers in export and import trade. Comprehensive strategy is significant here.
“Custom rationalisation is import for trade. Customs clearance and licence issues should be easier to reduce time waste. However, Japan is a potential market for us. There is a big scope to achieve the potential,” he added.
President of Japanese Commerce and Industry Association in Dhaka (JCIAD) Tetsuro Kano said import duty is high. It should be reduced. There is a problem of LC opening. JBCCI can play a vital role in resolving the problem.
Bangladesh’s RMG exports to Japan may increase to $10 billion by 2030, he also added.
President of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Mahbubul Alam said there are huge scopes of investment in ICT, agro and agro processing sector, energy and infrastructure in Bangladesh.