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Dhaka Tribune

FM Momen: Beijing to remain engaged with Dhaka in its next development journey

Dhaka seeks better trade relations, measures to begin Rohingya repatriation

Update : 10 Jan 2023, 02:06 PM

Newly appointed Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has conveyed to Bangladesh that his country will “remain engaged” in Bangladesh's development journey to the next level noting its “remarkable” economic progress over the past years.

“Our discussion was very useful and fruitful. Good news is that China has expressed its willingness to remain engaged with Bangladesh in our development journey. They want to work with us as a partner,” said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.

Talking to reporters on Tuesday after attending a discussion marking the historic Homecoming Day of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bangalee of all time, Momen said they discussed the consequences of the Ukraine war like disruptions in the supply and financial chains.

A new situation has been created and we need to work together to overcome the current situation (due to the Ukraine war),” Momen said.

Trade Relations

Momen said he raised the huge trade gap issue with China as Bangladesh imports goods worth US$ 13 billion against Bangladesh's exports worth less than US$ 800 million.

He said though there was a decision of duty free and quota free facilities for 98 percent of Bangladeshi products, it has not been implemented yet fully due to absence of a gazette notification.

Businesses are yet to take advantage of the DFQF facilities in the Chinese market, Momen mentioned, seeking measures from the Chinese side.

Regarding the Rohingya issue, he said the Chinese side sees some problems in Myanmar that delayed the repatriation of the Rohingyas. “But he (Chinese FM) remains hopeful.”

Momen said there is a possibility of radicalism if the problem remains unresolved. “These people are stateless. Their future is uncertain. For that reason they could succumb to extremism and terrorism. As a result peace will be disrupted for the whole reason,” he added.

The Bangladesh Foreign Minister sought special measures from the Chinese side so that the problem could be resolved as soon as possible.

“At least the process should start. He (Chinese FM) on this,” Momen told reporters referring to his conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister.

Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar and Bhasan Char and not a single Rohingya has been repatriated since August, 2017.

In August 2017, a deadly crackdown by Myanmar's army on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.

Bangladesh also conveyed to China that it maintains a balanced foreign policy and walks together with all the countries while reassuring Dhaka's support to Beijing.

"We believe in the one-China principle. We maintain a balanced foreign policy. This is our principle. We will extend our support (to China) from time to time," Momen told reporters at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport early Tuesday as conveyed to his Chinese counterpart who had a brief stopover there.

Momen received his Chinese counterpart upon his arrival at around 1:58am, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told UNB.

The two Foreign Ministers had a brief meeting at the VIP Lounge of the airport and discussed issues of mutual interest.

Momen described the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Bangladesh in 2016 as a milestone but mentioned that many decisions in terms of investment are yet to be implemented.

The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh also mentioned China's involvement in a number of important development projects including the rail link of Padma Bridge.

He also thanked the Chinese government for its support to Bangladesh during Covid-19 pandemic.

The Chinese Foreign Minister invited Momen to visit Beijing at a mutually convenient time.

In reply, Momen also invited his Chinese counterpart to come again for a longer stay.

Foreign Minister Momen saw off his Chinese counterpart at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 2:50 am on Tuesday.

Earlier, Momen told UNB that it was not an official visit to Bangladesh, but the Chinese foreign minister would make a stopover here on his way to another destination.

Qin Gang, who until recently was ambassador to the US, has started his term with a weeklong trip to five African countries.

To "deepen the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership" and boost friendly cooperation between China and Africa, Foreign Minister Qin Gang will visit Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin, Egypt, the African Union Headquarters and the League of Arab States Headquarters upon invitation, from January 9 to 16, 2023," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily media briefing on Monday.

This is the 33rd consecutive year that Africa has been the destination of the Chinese foreign ministers' annual first overseas visit, he added.

“We are lucky that we have been able to receive him on January 10. He also came to Bangladesh back in 2016 as a member of President Xi Jinping's entourage,” Momen said.

The Foreign Minister said it is good to see that many countries are looking at Bangladesh sincerely due to Bangladesh's balanced foreign policy.

“We are getting much importance. We also want more engagements (with friendly countries),” Momen said.

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