Vol. 5 Num 646 Thu. March 23, 2006  
Front Page

PM Meets Indian Business Leaders
Invites investment, seeks to bridge trade gap

Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia yesterday wrapped up her three-day official visit to India inviting investment from that country and suggesting strategic partnership between investors and traders of the two countries in key areas including information and communications technology (ICT).

Addressing captains of Indian industry and business at Taj Mansingh Hotel here, she voiced concern over the ever-growing trade gap between India and Bangladesh saying such a situation is 'hardly sustainable' and urged India to facilitate preferential duty-free access to Bangladeshi exports.

She also sought dismantling of various non-tariff barriers to exports from Bangladesh to Indian market and improvement of land port facilities on Indian side of the border.

Khaleda said Indian investors could take advantage of a 'very attractive and investment friendly regime' in Bangladesh, its growing market and its location as a link between South Asia and fast-growing South East Asia.

"The preferential access that Bangladesh enjoys in many developed markets can also be made use of. All these advantages make Bangladesh a significant investment destination," Khaleda said adding, "We welcome our friends abroad, particularly those from India, to take advantage of Bangladesh's favourable investment friendly regime and the various incentive packages that are in place."

She said a healthy growth of Bangladeshi exports to India would greatly help her country sustain its substantial imports from India and her government would, in return, examine the possibility of greater trade, creating scope for Indian investment in Bangladesh.

In this context, she pointed out that India's exports to Bangladesh was at over two billion dollars while Bangladesh's exports to India stood at nearly 144 million dollars in the last financial year.

"Bangladesh has a very open mind about strategic business partnership between the traders and investors of the two countries. My government is keen to support such partnership in key areas so that investment in specific manufacturing sectors may meet domestic consumption as well as exports to SAARC countries, especially India ...," the prime minister said.

"We can also enter into collaborative ventures in such key areas as ICT," she added.

Khaleda said the trade gap between the two countries is a matter of considerable concern to her government. "It is a matter of concern not because India stands to be the gainer. Certainly we cannot and do not see it that way. Nevertheless, we are concerned because such a situation is hardly sustainable," she said.

"Our relations draw their strength from our common history, rich cultural interactions and our close and often inter-dependent economic ties. Indeed, the economic relations between our two countries are substantive, dynamic and ever-growing," she said.

Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman, Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan, Foreign Affairs Adviser Reaz Rahman, Principal Secretary to the PM Dr Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, Foreign Secretary Hemayetuddin, Bangladesh High Commissioner in New Delhi Liaquat Ali Chowdhury, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Veena Sikri, Additional Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain, Minister (Press) of Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi M Anwarul Haq, Director General (EP) Zahirul Haque and Joint Secretary to the Commerce Ministry Elias Ahmed were present.

Around 40 leading business leaders from Bangladesh attended the meeting including FBCCI President Mir Nasir Hossain, MCCI President Latifur Rahman, ICC President Mahbubur Rahman, President of Women Entrepreneurs Association, Bangladesh Rokia Afzal Rahman, Managing Director of Rahimafrooz Batteries Ltd Feroz Rahim, FBCCI Directors Aftab-ul-Islam, AKM Rafiqul Islam, Murshed Murad Ibrahim and Kamran Tanvirur Rahman, BTMA Chairman Abdul Awal, DCCI President Abdul Momen, former president of DCCI SayeefulIslam, JBCCI President Matiur Rahman, BKMEA President Fazlul Haque, BGMEA Director Syed Mohammad Fazlul Haque, BTMA leader Abdul Hai Sarker, Arab Bangladesh Bank Chairman Faisal Morshed Khan, Managing Director of Pran Group Maj Gen (retd) Amjad Khan Chowdhury , President of Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce Abdul Matlub Ahmad, Chittagong Chamber President Ershad Ullah, First Vice-president of FBCCI Mohammad Ali, and President of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Bangladesh Nasreen Awal.

A host of Indian leading business leaders and individuals including Managing Director of Tata Steel Limited B Muthuraman, Senior Vice-president of FICCI Habil F Khorakiwala, Senior Vice-president of ASSOCHAM Venugopal N Dhoot and Anil Agarwala also attended the meeting.