Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has urged the three ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in Middle East and Uzbekistan in Central Asia to play effective roles in increasing Bangladesh's exports to those countries.
The minister also directed the ambassador concerned to take necessary steps to expedite Saudi Arabian investments in various sectors of the country as per the memorandum of understanding signed in this regard.
During a meeting with Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mohammad Javed Patwari, Ambassador to Kuwait Major General Asik and Ambassador to Uzbekistan Mohammad Jahangir Alam on Sunday, the minister said embassies need to work to grasp the advantage of the post-pandemic export trade.
For that, ambassadors will have to play an important role, he said, adding that trade opportunities must be taken while maintaining good relations with the traders of those countries.
The commerce minister said in the changed world trade due to Covid-19, there is an opportunity for Bangladesh to increase exports, which must be used efficiently.
"Bangladesh has already turned around in the export trade. Ambassadors will have to go beyond their traditional duties and contribute to the growth of the country's exports," Tipu Munshi remarked.
He said the ambassadors should inform foreign investors that the government is providing attractive opportunities for domestic and foreign investments.
"We are working to enter a big market like Russia. That is why Uzbekistan is very important for Bangladesh. Uzbekistan is also interested in increasing trade with Bangladesh. Both the countries are working to ease trade complexities. In this case, the ambassador of Bangladesh has to play a leading role."
An official present at the meeting told The Business Standard that the commerce minister asked the ambassadors to take effective initiatives to increase exports of jute leaves, tea, leather, jute and jute products to the three countries.
During the meeting, the ambassador to Uzbekistan said the country is no longer interested in exporting cotton to Bangladesh. Instead, it wants to export yarn by setting up a spinning mill.
The ministry of commerce said that this will not be a problem for Bangladesh.
A ministry official said Bangladesh did not agree with Uzbekistan's proposal. This will increase the cost of imports while Bangladesh's spinning mills will be in crisis. Moreover, in terms of the Rules of Origin to get GSP benefits in different countries, Bangladesh will lag one step behind.
Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association, told The Business Standard that the Uzbek initiative will not succeed because the country has EU sanctions owing to child labour. The price of their yarn there is higher than that of Bangladesh. As Uzbekistan does not have its own port, it also has problems in import and export.
Even if Uzbekistan stops exporting cotton to Bangladesh, it will not have any effect, he said, adding, "35 percent of our demand for cotton is imported from India. It is also imported from other countries, including West Africa. About seven percent of total imports come from Uzbekistan."
According to the commerce ministry, Bangladesh exported goods worth $262 million to Saudi Arabia last fiscal year. In the 11 months from July to May last fiscal year, the country imported $796 million worth of goods.
Exports to Kuwait stood at $23 million last fiscal year compared to $382 million in imports in those 11 months.
Also, exports to Uzbekistan stood at $19 million, compared to $68 million in imports.