Canadian trade counsellor calls on CCCI
As both Bangladesh and Canada are now back on the path of economic recovery amid the Covid-19 pandemic, there is ample opportunity to increase bilateral trade.
Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Mahbubul Alam said this at a meeting with Canadian Trade Commissioner Angela Dark at his office in the port city of Chittagong recently.
Quoting Standard Chartered, the CCCI chief said that Bangladesh's economic growth of 7.2% is set to ride on domestic consumption, global recovery, steady flow of remittance and rising exports,
The forecast is in line with the government projection for gross domestic product (GDP) and higher than that of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
The Canadian economy will also rebound strongly and grow by 6.1% in 2021 and 3.8% in 2022, thanks to reduced Covid-19 restrictions in the second half of this year and buoyant external demand.
Angela Dark expressed Canada's interest to enhance business and investment in Bangladesh as the bilateral relations between the countries have been strengthened.
“Canada is giving high priority to Bangladesh and taking a number of steps to facilitate business and investment as the business-friendly environment has improved in Bangladesh,” the trade counsellor said.
In addition, several flagship Canadian companies from the readymade garments, aerospace, defence and security sectors are active in the Bangladesh market and pursuing new business opportunities, she added.
Mahbubul Alam also said that bilateral trade between Canada and Bangladesh was expected to cross over $4 billion soon, which was $2.42 billion in 2019.
In the first quarter of 2020, Bangladesh exported goods worth $440 million to Canada. On the other hand, Bangladesh imported goods worth $231.28 million at the same time of the year.
Alam also said that Canada’s commercial relationship with Bangladesh has grown significantly over the last 14 years. The value of bilateral merchandise trade has more than tripled from $600.5 million in 2004 to over $2.4 billion Canadian dollars in 2018.
During this period, Canadian merchandise exports to Bangladesh have increased over six-fold, to $651 million in 2018, of which 70% were agriculture items.
Canada’s main exports to Bangladesh include cereals, pulses, iron and steel, fertilizer (potash), chemicals, aircraft, related equipment and services.
Bangladesh is Canada’s fourth largest pulse export market (e.g. dry peas, lentils, chickpeas), and a major market for high quality wheat.
Canada’s main merchandise imports from Bangladesh included woven apparel, knit apparel, miscellaneous textile articles, headgear and footwear.
Readymade garments and textile products make up the bulk of Canada’s merchandise imports from Bangladesh. Bangladesh has enjoyed duty-free market access to Canada, for most goods, since 2003.
Canadian merchandise imports from Bangladesh were nearly $1.7 billion in 2018.
Mahbubul Alam said that foreign direct investment (FDI) worth $15 billion was expected to be invested at the Mirsarai Economic Zone in the coming years.
Mirsarai Economic Zone is a special economic zone currently under development at Mirsarai upazila, Chittagong on the bank of Sandwip channel. It is being developed on an area of 30,000 acres and is governed by Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority under the Bangladesh Economic Zone Act, 2010
Meanwhile, Chittagong Wasa has taken up a project at a cost of Tk3,400 crore to produce and supply 140 million litres of water daily to Mirsarai Economic Zone (MEZ).
Calling Canada as an important trading partner of Bangladesh, CCCI president said Canadian entrepreneurs could invest in different sectors in the special economic zone
He said that Canadian entrepreneurs can invest in the economic zone, produce products and export goods to different countries.
The entrepreneurs of the G7 country can produce products at most competitive prices using one stop service and plenty of skilled workforces and enjoying tax holidays, he also said.
As the country's export basket is heavily dependent on the readymade garment industry, Canadian Trade Commissioner Angela Dark said that Bangladesh should diversify product-bases to boost export earnings.
The Canadian trade counsellor said Bangladesh should look at increasing exports of porcelain, leather goods, jute and quality jute goods, ceramic, tableware and kitchenware, frozen fish and others to the North American country.
In the last financial year 2020-21, exports fetched export earnings of $38.76 billion for Bangladesh – 15.10% higher than $33.67 billion the country had earned from its exports in 2019-20.
However, the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) finds that only a handful of countries are Bangladesh's main export destinations.
With over 72% of all Bangladeshi exports landing in only five markets in 2020-21, it’s evident in itself that Bangladesh’s exports are too concentrated in a handful of markets.
Of the total export earnings of $38.76 billion, Bangladesh earned $28.06 billion from just five markets—the European Union, United States, India, Japan and Canada.
Canada has supplied Bangladesh more than one million tons of potash since 1972. In partnership with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the government of Canada signed the first government-to-government agreement with the government in April 2014 to export high quality potash fertilizer to Bangladesh.
In August 2013, Canada and Bangladesh concluded negotiations of a first-time bilateral air transport agreement in Ottawa. Both countries agreed to apply the agreement on an administrative basis immediately.
Canada has provided over $4 billion of international assistance to Bangladesh since 1972.
CCCI Senior Vice-President Syed Mohammad Tanvir and Trade Commissioner of the Canadian High Commission Kamaludin Ahmed, among others, were present, among others.