China, Bangladesh to improve bilateral economic relations

By Xinhua

Dhaka : China and Bangladesh have committed to promote bilateral economic relations, narrow the trade imbalance and to encourage investment between the two countries.

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Chinese Assistant Minister of Commerce Wang Chao and Bangladeshi Finance and Commerce Advisor Azizul Islam expressed their desire to encourage bilateral relations during a meeting here Sunday.

Islam said the two countries had achieved a breakthrough in trade relations with a rapid growth of mutual trade.

The trade between the two Asian countries reached a record level of about $3.19 billion in 2006, 28.5 percent higher than the previous year.

However, Bangladesh's export to China amounted to only about $98.8 million – indicating a huge negative balance of trade between the two countries.

Islam said that China had granted tariff-free access to 84 Bangladeshi items within the framework of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (AFTA) and hoped more items like jute products, leather and textile will enjoy duty free access in the future.

Islam invited more Chinese investment in Bangladesh in sectors like power, infrastructure, construction and electrical products, promising that the Bangladesh government would provide a fair and equal environment.

Wang Chao, who led a large economic and trade delegation to Bangladesh, said China had paid a lot of attention to economic relations and trade cooperation with Bangladesh.

The Chinese minister also noted the imbalance and promised to narrow the gap.

Wang said the 39-member delegation he led would purchase Bangladesh goods worth over $50 million.

It is the biggest purchase delegation ever to Bangladesh with over 10 companies listed in China's top 500 and some of them in world's top 500 companies, he added.

Bangladesh enterprises were welcome to invest in China and to attend the Guangzhou Chinese Import and Export Commodities Fair to show Bangladesh's various products to Chinese people, Wang said.

China would provide free stalls in the annual fair to developing countries including Bangladesh, he said.

Visiting representatives of the Chinese companies signed contracts worth about $53 million with Bangladeshi firms later Sunday, mainly to purchase leather, jute products and seafood.

China and Bangladesh also signed an agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation, which provides 100 million RMB (about $13.2 million) to Bangladesh with 80 million RMB (about $10.5 million) as non-reimbursable assistance and the left as an interest-free loan.

The two sides decided to build a Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre in Dhaka, according to the agreement.

The Chinese delegation arrived in Dhaka Saturday for a three-day visit after visiting Pakistan and was to leave for Nepal Monday.