KARACHI: Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh SM Mahbubul Alam, while stressing the need to enhance trade and investment cooperation, asked the Karachi Chamber to send a business delegation to Bangladesh to explore trade and investment opportunities in the 35th largest economy of the world which offers all the required facilities and infrastructure along with special incentives to foreign investors.


Exchanging views at a meeting during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Bangladeshi envoy informed that 100 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were being established all over Bangladesh with the aim of promoting investment and accelerating economic growth through increased and diversified industrialization, employment, production and exports. “We have a lot of potential to work together so we must make collective efforts for the economic prosperity of the two brotherly countries”, he added. President KCCI Mohammed Tariq Yousuf, Senior Vice President Touseef Ahmed, Chairman Diplomatic Missions and Embassies Liaison Subcommittee Zia ul Arfeen and KCCI Managing Committee Members were also present on the occasion.


Bangladeshi Deputy HC further stated that Bangladesh and Pakistan have been enjoying excellent economic relations which have been expanded with the passage of time but there were challenges which have to be efficiently tackled through collective efforts. “When Bangladesh came to existence, it had zero foreign reserves and most of the food items were being imported but now the country holds impressive foreign reserves of US$48 billion and it was not importing any food items as all the food stuff for the population was being produced locally within the country and we have become self-sufficient”, he said, adding that under vision 2041, Bangladesh intends to become a developed and smart nation.


Mahbubul Alam informed that foreign investors from Japan, China, India and South Korea have already established production units in Bangladesh, hence, Pakistani business community must also come forward to benefit from the situation. “Bangladesh is a country which is, particularly, focused on quick troubleshooting of any issue being faced by foreign investors and most of such issues are resolved in just a single sitting which is very encouraging for foreign investors. We always welcome our foreign friends for improvement of economy and creation of maximum number of employment opportunities.”


Commenting on concerns expressed over delays in issuance of visas, he said that they try their best to issue visas to the members of business community at the earliest, however, delays faced by any individual were purely due to procedures which have to be adhered. “Anyone desiring to do business with Bangladesh is issued business visa on top priority.” He said that Bangladesh was particularly focused on improving its literacy rate and it was undoubtedly a major achievement that the enrollment at primary schools now stands at 100 percent. “We provide free books and scholarships to millions of poor people so that everyone has access to education”, he informed, adding that in 1971, only six universities existed but now, there were 108 universities and 120 medical colleges in Bangladesh.


Earlier, President KCCI Mohammed Tariq Yousuf, while welcoming the Bangladeshi Deputy High Commissioner, stated that in spite of enormous trade potential between the two countries, the trade volume was below its potential as during six months of current fiscal year, Pakistan’s exports to Bangladesh were stagnant at around $480 million as compared to $483 million last year. “The negotiations on Pak-Bangladesh Free Trade Agreement (FTA) launched in 2003, have not concluded even after 19 years which require special attention from both sides as this FTA would certainly give boost to the existing trade volume between the two brotherly countries.”


He further stressed that the tariff reductions and elimination of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) should be pursued gradually to put forward the negotiations amicably towards the logical end for the mutual economic benefit of both countries. “To enhance business activities and economic relationships, visa regime should be relaxed for travelling to foster cooperation, trade and people-to-people contact between the two countries while the possibility of a direct shipping line also needs to be explored to promote bilateral trade and both countries must improve air and maritime linkages for boosting trade and strengthening economic development.


Tariq Yousuf was of the view that the Bangladeshi businessmen can also look into the possibility of undertaking joint ventures in various potential sectors, such as agriculture, food processing, textile, real estate, cement, energy and IT sectors etc. “Bangladesh should also look into Pakistan’s Blue economy, having tremendous potential at the coastal belt from Karachi to Gwadar, which offers huge opportunities for ports and harbors, marine transportation, fisheries, extraction of hydrocarbons, seabed minerals, value-added port logistics, shipbuilding, fish processing and eco-tourism.