A four-day global thought leadership initiative that took place on a virtual platform ended on Thursday with an emphasis on economic integration among the South Asian nations for sustainable growth.
The multi-faceted programme LEADS 2020 aimed at evolving a shared vision among global leaders and reimagining economic growth on the pillars of open economies, self-reliance, economic resilience and multilateralism at a time when it is necessary to affirm solidarity across borders with optimism for the future.
The FICCI LEADS endeavour is a confluence of global leaders, influencers and opinion shapers across the spectrum of world economy.
Representatives from 100 countries including Bangladesh joined the programme titled "South Asia Session Reimagining Neighbourhood Economic Integration" that continued from October 12 to October 15.
FBCCI president Sheikh Fazle Fahim attended the programme representing Bangladesh.
In his address at the session, Fahim at the very outset commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
He recalled the episodes from 1947 to 1971 leading to the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation and the contribution of the Father of the Nation who laid the foundation of the long-proven relations with India, Bhutan, Nepal, South Asia, Russia and Germany among 150 other nations.
"We are indebted to the people of India for hosting 10 million Bangladeshis during our war of independence in 1971."
The business leader looked back to the years since 2008 to acknowledge that Bangladesh sees a positive trend towards greater engagements and cooperation in culture, trade, investment and sports, despite challenges.
"Today's sustainable growth is the reflection of shared values of our leadership. During Covid-19 we saw our South Asian leadership come together virtually with a conviction to save humanity within the borders of South Asia and beyond," he added.
Welcoming other nations to explore Bangladesh's designated Economic Zones, SAARC Economic Zones to maximise SAFTA value chain, he said Bangladesh's current bilateral trade stands at $10 billion.
India's designated Economic Zones in Bangladesh have enabled prospects for more strategic investments which await execution.
The FBCCI boss underscored the need for regional value chain initiative (RVCI) for trade recovery through bringing raw material from neighbouring countries for domestic industry.
The RVCI along with tariff, non-tariff facilities, policy frameworks for Ease of Doing Business which are under way will help maximise Bangladesh's production competitive edge as well as boost export to the region, he suggested.
Highlighting Bangladesh's success and development even during the unprecedented pandemic, Fahim further stated that over US$70 billion has been invested to update the industrial ecosystem evident in infrastructure, 100 Economic Zones (EZ), high-tech parks, multimodal connectivity and trade logistics by air, road, rail and waterways among other developments.
"Our 160 million vibrant domestic market, 1.8bn South Asian regional market, Duty-free Quota-free (DFQF) access to EU, India, China, Canada, Australia, APTA, etc, are complementary prospects with a shared value chain initiative."
In the next normal, cooperation between neighbouring countries will not be just limited to bilateral or regional framework, but will transcend the regions and go global. Bangladesh's position in regional cooperation and beyond can serve as a conduit between East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia and beyond.
Fahim further highlighted the FBCCI's exhaustive engagements in non-fiscal and fiscal policy support, social and philanthropic initiatives, and goodwill gestures to multiple governments.
FBCCI's ongoing effort to regenerate the federation as the modern trade body, its initiatives with global partners to promote the business sector of Bangladesh by developing platforms like FBCCI Economic Applied Policy Research Center, FBCCI Alternate Dispute Resolution Center, FBCCI Tech Center, FBCCI Institute, FBCCI University and its engagement with global partners to open dialogues in availing mutual benefits were also highlighted.
Ms Smriti Irani, Honorable Union Cabinet Minister for Textiles, Women and Child Development, Govt of India, addressed the event. In her speech, Smriti Irani said: "It is time to reimagine economic integration in our region with the advent of the pandemic. The region has immense political and cultural interdependence as well as co-operation. It is our shared identity that can enable economic growth through investment opportunities such as manufacturing goods economically."
In his discourse, FICCI President Dr Sangita Reddy said: "As neighbours, we can help each other overcome any crisis. A calibrated and systematic engagement with our neighbouring countries will help us address socio-economic constraints while ensuring economic integration for economic development."
During the conference, Bangladesh's GDP growth and development were highly praised.
FICC Director for South Asia and Multilaterals Ms Sushman Sair, FNCCI president Ms Bhawani Rana, Mr Junaid Ahmad, India Country Director, South Asia, World Bank, Indian Ambassador to Maldives Sunjay Sudhir, Mr Ismail Ghazanfar, chairman, Federation of Afghan Chambers, Mr Nishal Ferdinando, CEO, JAT Holdings, Sri Lanka, Ms Indrani Bagchi, Diplomatic Editor, Times of India, Mr Dilip Chenoy, SG, among others, spoke on the occasion.