Bangladesh and Netherlands on Thursday discussed ways to have broader collaboration as demand for safe and quality agro commodities, clean energy and resilient infrastructure will rise in the coming decades.
"That's where business and investment from Bangladesh and the Netherlands can gain mutually, through collaboration," said State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam.
The State Minister was addressing as the chief guest at a launching webinar of the Report "Netherlands in Bangladesh: Mapping the ground @ 50, Stitching Partnerships" virtually. Bangladesh Ambassador to the Netherlands Riaz Hamidullah, among others, spoke.
Shahriar Alam mentioned that Bangladesh moves as a fast-growing economy in the Asia-Pacific with a youthful population of 167 million, with 34 million middle and affluent class and urbanising rapidly.
Quoting the study, he said sectors like pharmaceuticals, leather, agro-processing, dairy, light engineering, jute, shipbuilding, renewable energy, water and marine infrastructure, river management, land reclamation, digital industry, FinTech, various creative industries, and Blue Economy can offer win-win opportunities for both sides.
The Netherlands is one of the first countries in Europe to recognise Bangladesh as an independent nation - on February 11, 1972.
Over the past five decades, Shahriar said political and economic ties and engagements with the Netherlands has evolved considerably.
He said trade and investment growth with Netherlands is fast outpacing the ODA. "Today, Netherlands is our 7th largest export destination in Europe (9th largest globally), 4th largest origin for FDI-origin to Bangladesh, 13th largest source of ODA. We also have quite seamless coordination and interaction in multilateral space."
Over decades, the State Minister said, the Dutch side appreciates Bangladesh's challenges and approach to water, climate change, women, inclusive finance; and stood firmly by Bangladesh in addressing challenges on trade and sustainability.
"Our bilateral ties is progressing steadily. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had a ground-breaking visit to the Netherlands in November 2015," said the State Minister.
Dutch Queen Máxima was in Dhaka twice, as the UN Special Envoy, in 2015 and 2019.
Exploring greater potential
In the early 1970s, Dutch support in Bangladesh began with land reclamation, river training and overall water sector.
Building on that, today, Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 stands out as the high point in our ties, said the State Minister.
He said more than physical infrastructure, to me the larger objective of the Delta Plan is to make living – manufacturing – production works across Bangladesh sustainable, resilient, secure, dynamic for future.
"As Bangladesh aspires to emerge as a Developed State by 2041, the Dutch entrepreneurs, innovators and SMEs who gainfully engage with responsible and credible partners from Bangladeshi private sector," Shahriar said.
He said that as much as we need financial investment, we need knowledge – technology – solutions – innovation more to convert the opportunities into attractive and competitive business propositions.
Shahriar recalled, when Prime Minister Hasina spoke to the Dutch business in 2015 in the Netherlands, she emphasised deepening mutual collaboration in agriculture, food and light engineering sectors.
"Dutch companies like Phillips, Organon, Unilever are well known to Bangladeshis, even to our toddlers," he said.
The State Minister said Netherlands and Bangladesh hold greater potential to mutually benefit from each other's complementarities through strategic investments and collaboration in areas like agriculture, light engineering, and water.
"These areas are also crucial for our two Deltaic nations in a future world that is already focusing on Circular Economy."
He said Europe Union is moving towards an EU Green Deal. "Therefore, I should particularly complement our Ambassador for organising the series of the Webinars on Dec 8 and 9; and creatively focus on these key areas."