The Daily Star / UNB, Dhaka
Bangladesh to propose FTA with Malaysia
Saturday June 04 2005
Bangladesh will propose a Free Trade Agreement with Malaysia in Bangladesh-Malaysia Joint Commission (JC) meeting to be held on June 6-7, after a break of 10 years. A foreign ministry official yesterday said Dhaka would also seek duty-free access for 19 Bangladeshi products to the Malaysian market, and propose setting up a Joint Trade Commission.
Other issues likely to figure prominently in the talks include manpower export, visa, joint investment in energy and agriculture sector, introduction of direct shipping as well as co-operation in IT, health, education and cultural sectors.
The last JC meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1994 after it was set up in 1992 to foster co-operation between the two countries in various sectors.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid bin Syed Zafar Al Bar arrives in Dhaka on June 6. He will lead his country at the 3rd JC meet while Bangladesh Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan will lead the home side.
Meetings at senior official- and secretary-levels on June 5 and 6 will precede the ministerial-level JC meeting on June 7.
Deputy Secretary General at the Malaysian Foreign Ministry Haji Selim bin Hashim will hold talks with Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Ismail Jabiullah on June 6.
The foreign ministry official said the upcoming JC meeting bears a great significance for strengthening both political and economic ties between the two Muslim countries.
Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur bilateral ties apparently plumbed new depths after Bangladesh had announced its candidature for the OIC secretary general post, for which Malaysia too was a contender.
Both the foreign ministers will have a breakfast meeting on June 7 before leading their sides at the JC meeting. Political issues are likely to be discussed at the breakfast meeting.
The Malaysian foreign minister is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Khaleda Zia on June 7.
Kuala Lumpur’s present investment in Bangladesh stands around US$ 100 million in various sectors, including telecommunications, palm oil refinery, and construction. It also has investment in capacity building in the fisheries sector under an OIC project.
The emerging economic powerhouse for Asia, Malaysia is also keen to invest in low-cost housing projects and power sector in Bangladesh.
Currently, the two-way trade is heavily tilted towards Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur’s export bill stood at US$ 254.66 million against Dhaka’s US $ 8.66 million in 2003-04.
To reduce the gap, the official said Bangladesh would seek duty-free access of its products including jute and jute goods, leather and leather products, pharmaceuticals, frozen food, electric cable and tea.