• Monday, Dec 06, 2021
  • Last Update : 01:15 am

Envoy sees potentials for future Australia-Bangladesh bilateral trade

  • Published at 05:07 pm October 24th, 2021
Chittagong port import export trade
File photo of Chittagong PortDhaka Tribune

'Conclusion of the Australia-Bangladesh TIFA was timely and could provide the necessary boost towards a more significant economic relationship'

Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Jeremy Bruer has said his country "wants to work energetically" to enhance trade and investment with Bangladesh, noting that the future is “golden” for the two countries to collaborate in broader areas and take the ties to new heights.

“If you ask me for my prognosis for the future of Bangladesh-Australia relations - I say again, the future is golden,” he said, highlighting the opportunities that the recently signed Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA) offer.

The High Commissioner, however, said he does not deny that there are significant challenges globally that they need to be met, taking advantage of that golden future and working together in a way that helps meet those challenges “constructively” and supports welfare of the countries.

The Australian envoy made the remarks while delivering his keynote speech at a virtual dialogue titled “Bangladesh-Australia Relations: Prognosis for the Future”.

Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, hosted the dialogue as part of its ongoing Ambassadors' Lecture Series.

The opening remarks were delivered by Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan.

The session was chaired by Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, scholar-diplomat and former adviser on foreign affairs of the caretaker government.

Also Read - Bangladesh can sign FTA with Thailand to boost trade: Thai envoy

Former Foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Distinguished Fellow at Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Professor at International Relations Department of Dhaka University Imtiaz Ahmed, Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan and Honorary Advisor Emeritus, Cosmos Foundation Ambassador (retd) Tariq A Karim comprised the panel of discussants. 

Enayetullah Khan said the conclusion of the Australia-Bangladesh TIFA on September 15 was timely and could provide the necessary boost towards a more significant economic relationship.

While TIFAs are seen as mostly symbolic, Khan said, they do signal an injection of commitment and ambition, which is what the next phase of the relationship between Bangladesh and Australia actually needs.

Iftekhar Chowdhury shared how the focus of aid at that time shifted to trade and commerce which seem to have grown “exponentially” leading to the signing of TIFA.

“We’re also looking for expanded collaboration in the whole range of activities -- e-commerce, infrastructure, power and energy, water, sanitation, hygiene; and tapping potential in the blue economy – our maritime resources,” he said, noting that the two countries will be celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations next year.
 High Commissioner Bruer said with the right conditions, Australian investors will be keen to explore opportunities in Bangladesh.

“I’m keen to increase investment in both directions. I see that as being important to the development of a more complete, comprehensive commercial relationship and hope we’ll be able to use the TIFA as a platform to see what we can to boost two-way investment,” he said.

The Australian envoy said there is a shared interest in deepening and widening trade and investment opportunities and he thinks the prospects of doing so are bright.

“We see further opportunities to enhance trade and investment through bilateral cooperation in energy and minerals, including renewable energy; skills development; and information and communication technology services,” said the Australian envoy.

Under the TIFA, he said, they look forward to exploring how governments can work together to boost the recovery of the private sector and lead growth in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The High Commissioner said in infrastructure, technology-driven solutions in fields such as road and rail management and logistics Australia can support Bangladesh’s ambitious infrastructure development plans.

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The envoy said Australia has the potential to be a major supplier of LNG and other energy resources, including renewable energy to fuel Bangladesh’s growth.

Debapriya Bhattacharya said Bangladesh-Australia relationship is a classic case of "suboptimal utilization" and it remains “very underutilized, underappreciated, understated and less understood” relationship in the current context.

The economist said Bangladesh’s development ambitions in the coming days are getting out of the LDC group and it would like to retain some of the privileges for smooth and sustainable development in the post LDC phase.

He said Australia-Bangladesh last September signed TIFA which is a great progress.

“But as you know TIFA by itself does not ensure that flows will happen. It is a platform to discuss problems at certain points. The modern approach to all the states is the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).”

The economist said the Indo-Pacific stability and sustainability approach of Australia would fit in very well in terms of investing in Bangladesh. “Our development ambitions are very much aligned with the political strategic approach which Australia was to perform and this is global which will fit into the global strategy.

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