China proposes FTA with Bangladesh

The Chinese side indicated that they are considering a big investment in the economic zone

China has proposed signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh to promote trade between the two countries and reduce trade-gap tilted against Bangladesh.

The proposal was made at the bilateral talks between the two countries at the Foreign Ministry yesterday.

“China wants to start negotiation on FTA. We will explore the proposal,” Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque told reporters after meeting his visiting Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

He said no decision was made yet whether Bangladesh would start the negotiation right now.

During the three-hour talks, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali led the 19-member Bangladesh side and Wang Yi the 13-member China team.

The talks mainly covered various bilateral issues, including expansion of bilateral trade and business, connectivity, especially in road and railway sectors, expanding cooperation in energy and industrial sectors and celebration of 40 years of Dhaka-Beijing diplomatic relations.

The two foreign ministers also reviewed the progress of some memorandums of understanding and letters of exchange inked during the official visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to China in June this year.

Shahidul Haque said the Chinese side expressed satisfaction over the process of establishing an exclusive economic zone for Chinese investors.

“They think there will be a solid decision next year on the matter, and hoped that it will take off,” said the foreign secretary.

He said the Chinese side indicated that they are considering a big investment in the economic zone.

Shahidul said Bangladesh proposed rail and road connectivity through Chittgaong-Cox’s Bazar-Myanmar-Kunming.

“Our foreign minister proposed it, and the Chinese side initially responded positively, especially on the road connectivity,” he added.

On Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, the Chinese side appreciated Bangladesh’s leadership role, said the foreign secretary.

Responding to a question, the foreign secretary said China reiterated its interest in building a deep-sea port but Bangladesh is still considering all the proposals and new locations are in the discussion, too.

He said Bangladesh proposed hosting the Foreign Office Consultation next year.

Apart from trade, investment and infrastructure development issues, people-to-people contact, cooperation in defence, maritime, energy, agriculture, climate change and in international forums were also discussed in the meeting.

Source: Dhaka Tribune