Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI) President Md Jashim Uddin urged the government to initiate a free trade agreement (FTA) with China to face new challenges after graduation from a least developed country (LDC) status.
"An FTA with China, the largest partner of Bangladesh in international trade, will play a supportive role for Bangladesh in addressing new challenges once it graduates from being an LDC and will make it easier to minimise the trade deficit," he said.
The FBCCI President was speaking at the China-Bangladesh Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum 2021 and the inauguration ceremony of the seventh council of the Chinese Enterprises Association in Bangladesh (CEAB), on a virtual platform on Tuesday.
Md Jashim Uddin said Bangladesh's imports from China in fiscal year 2019-20 amounted to $11.49 billion, while the country exported goods worth only $0.6 billion to China. A Dhaka-Beijing Free Trade Agreement is needed to lessen this huge trade deficit.
The FBCCI President said that with a free trade agreement, the confidence of Chinese entrepreneurs will increase for investment and trade in Bangladesh.
Md Jashim Uddin appreciated the government's initiatives to improve the investment environment with tax holiday benefits, reduction of income tax for 5 to 10 years, tax-free export earnings, and the reduction of import duties on capital machinery and raw material imports.
"The establishment of 100 specialized economic zones is underway," he said, adding that Bangladesh has become one of the most attractive investment destinations for global entrepreneurs in the region.
The FBCCI President called for undertaking research projects to look for further opportunities of investment and trade expansion in Bangladesh.
Md Jashim Uddin called on Chinese businesspersons to invest in skills development and technology exchange in industries, power and energy, transport, leather, plastics, information and communication technology, agriculture and biotechnology.
Lauding the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China, the FBCCI President said, "This initiative has created unhindered opportunities for Bangladesh to become a developed country by 2041."
Salman F Rahman, adviser to the prime minister on private industry and investment, graced the event as chief guest, and the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jiming, was special guest.
Md Sirazul Islam, executive chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, Md Nazrul Islam, executive chairman of the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority, Shaikh Yusuf Harun, executive chairman of the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority and Ke Changliang, president of CEAB, also spoke at the programme.