TARGET FREE TRADE DEAL
Bangladesh, Malaysia agree to start negotiations for it, cut trade gap as Hasina holds official talks with Malaysian PM
Bangladesh and Malaysia yesterday agreed to boost bilateral trade, cut trade gap and start negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Kuala Lumpur assured Dhaka of extending support to it for becoming Asean’s dialogue partner and hosting the next meeting of Bangladesh-Malaysia Joint Commission next year. The last meeting of the joint commission was held in Dhaka in 2005.
The assurance came at a bilateral meeting between the two countries at the Malaysian prime minister’s office at Perdana Square in Putrajaya. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Malaysian counterpart Najib Abdul Razak led their respective countries at the meeting. Ministers and high government officials of both the countries were present.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said the Malaysian PM expressed satisfaction at the very warm and good relationship between the two countries.
“We want to take this relationship to a greater height and there’s no irritation in the relationship of our two countries,” Shahidul quoted the Malaysian PM as telling the meeting.
The meeting, added the foreign secretary, discussed various issues of mutual interest, especially the trade and commerce, migrant workers and investment.
Both the countries agreed to take active measures to reduce the current trade imbalance which is now disproportionately in favour of Malaysia.
On signing of an FTA between the two countries, Shahidul said the Malaysian premier has agreed to initiate negotiation to this end.
Both the leaders agreed on duty-free and quota-free access of Bangladeshi products to Malaysian market, especially pharmaceuticals goods, cement, jute and jute products, ceramics and footwear.
Malaysia imported only $136 million worth of goods from Bangladesh against the export of around $ 2.1 billion. Razak attributed the trade imbalance to the rising import of palm oil from Malaysia.
The foreign secretary said initially some 12,000 Bangladeshi workers would work in Sarawak state of Malaysia under the protocol on amending the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the employment of workers.
The workers will be selected from the database and would be given proper training. If things proceeded successfully, the number would rise to 60,000, he added.
About the Bangladeshi migrant workers in Malaysia, Razak said there are some 299,000 legal Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia mainly in the services, plantation, and construction sectors and the number could be raised.
Hasina proposed forming a Bangladesh-Malaysia Investment Forum. The issue will be discussed in the next joint commission meeting in Malaysia next year.
She requested her Malaysian counterpart to support Bangladesh in becoming a dialogue partner of the Asean. Malaysia is the next chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The Malaysian leader assured Hasina of continuing its support in technical and higher education.
She invited Razak to visit Bangladesh at a convenient time. Razak had been in Dhaka last year.
Md Abul Kalam Azad, senior secretary of Prime Minister’s Office; Senior Home Secretary Mozammel Haque Khan, and PM’s Press Secretary AKM Shamim Chowdhuri were present at the briefing.
DECEMBER 04, 2014