'Swiss investors have a solid and diversified footprint in Bangladesh'
What is the present trade volume between Bangladesh and Switzerland? What is our target to reach bilateral trade within the next five years?
Trade and investment are indeed a crucial part of our bilateral relationship.
Despite constraints brought by the pandemic, our trade volume sustained positive growth last year and stood at CHF 812 million ($890 million.)
This has almost quadrupled since 2010, and we are now well on course to cross the $1 billion mark by the end of this year.
This impressive trajectory, I hope, can give you an idea of what we can achieve together over the next period, and how it can benefit both our countries.
2022 is very significant as we will celebrate the golden jubilee of our bilateral ties.
Over the last five decades, Switzerland and Bangladesh have nurtured and grown close collaboration in many areas, including economic and international cooperation, humanitarian aid, as well as cultural and political exchanges.
The 50-year anniversary gives us therefore an opportunity to reflect and draw inspiration for our future journey together.
We also look forward to working more closely with Bangladesh in promoting multilateral cooperation, especially as Switzerland is a candidate for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2023-2024.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) flow to Bangladesh suffered last year as the coronavirus pandemic hit the world. Do you see more Swiss investment in Bangladesh? How do you evaluate the investment climate in Bangladesh?
Swiss investors have a solid and diversified footprint in this country.
They are active in key economic areas such as construction, food, pharmaceuticals, agro products, logistics, services and energy.
My embassy is regularly in contact with both existing and potential Swiss investors. New investors are slowly but surely growing curious about the Bangladeshi market and the opportunities it offers.
The government has devised several ambitious and crucial plans leading to 2041 and beyond to ensure sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
Attracting foreign direct investments can certainly contribute to achieving these goals.
My country is one of the global leaders for foreign direct investment.
With continued improvement in ease of doing business, legal and economic governance and a level playing field for all competitors, I am confident that Bangladesh will draw increased foreign investments from both new and existing companies – and this is especially important at a time when Bangladesh is about to graduate from the least developed countries status.
Switzerland is producing Covid-19 vaccine to combat the deadly disease. The Swiss government has vaccinated over 80% of its population until now. Bangladesh has also vaccinated 20% of its total population (including first dose). Can Switzerland transfer the technology of producing vaccines to Bangladesh?
Switzerland does not have any homegrown Covid-19 vaccine, but with our forte for innovation and research, the Swiss pharma and biotech industries play a critical role on the global stage to fight the pandemic.
You may be surprised to know that a Swiss biotech firm manufactures in Switzerland a large percentage of Moderna doses supplied to Europe.
My country promotes fair global access to vaccines, tests and medications in order to fight the pandemic over the long term.
In this regard, our government is actively involved in the COVAX initiative for fair distribution of covid-19 vaccines.
Moreover, timely and transparent exchange of epidemiological and clinical data is of great importance.
This is why Switzerland made a biological safety laboratory available to the WHO as a repository for covid-19 or other pathogens, and has helped to set up an international system for the voluntary exchange of new pathogens.
Since the beginning of this crisis, Switzerland has also firmly stood by Bangladesh and has, so far, earmarked over Tk160 crore to implement Covid-19 response initiatives.
Our engagement with our partners, and in close cooperation with the Bangladesh government, has helped local communities to efficiently respond to the pandemic and reinforce their resilience.
I am proud that this support has reached the most vulnerable and remote communities.
The export basket of Bangladesh is heavily dependent on readymade garments. Can Switzerland help Bangladesh diversify its export basket?
We have a diversified and export-oriented economy, with a very lively and agile ecosystem of small and medium enterprises.
We are ready to share our experience with Bangladesh. Innovation, research & development and competitiveness are intrinsic characteristics of Swiss industries across the board.
Therefore, I see great potential in forging further collaboration between the private sectors of our two countries on key areas such as innovation, hi-tech and cleantech.
Over the last 50 years, Switzerland has invested over $1 billion in development cooperation in this country, with a particular focus on skills and private sector development.
For example, we were one of the first countries to support skills training in the leather industry.
Now, this is a burgeoning export industry, and leading manufacturers of this promising sector still appreciate this crucial support provided in the past.
We currently help small and medium enterprises to improve their capacity and link them up with market actors. In many cases, this allows them to expand their footprint within and beyond the border.
Developing countries, including Bangladesh, are becoming victims of climate change. How can Switzerland and Bangladesh work together on climate change issues? Do you think developed countries compensate the developing countries?
Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change, with more violent weather, frequent flooding events and salt water damaging crops.
This has a real impact on livelihoods. I was in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in October and saw first-hand there how the indigenous communities are facing the impacts of climate change. Their lives are simply getting so much harder.
As an Alpine country, Switzerland is also facing numerous challenges and our glaciers can disappear by 2100 if the global temperature continues to rise by 2 degrees Celsius or beyond.
This is a global challenge that has to be addressed collectively. My country has worked hard on the global stage for robust rules, increasing our ambitions and effective and fair climate financing. We owe that to the next generations.
As a long-standing development partner, Switzerland has supported Bangladesh in disaster risk reduction and climate resilience for many years.
We will soon launch our new country program for 2022-2025 and addressing the impact of climate change will be a crucial part of our engagement.
What is the number of Bangladeshis living in your country and how do you evaluate their contribution to your country?
The size of the Bangladeshi diaspora in Switzerland is relatively modest.
Over 1,500 Bangladeshis currently live in my country, and many of them are engaged in the hospitality industry.
They have a reputation of being hardworking and they positively contribute to the Swiss society and economy. Many also financially support their families and, thus, contribute to the local economy here.
During my recent trip home, I met some Bangladeshi residing in Switzerland for a long time and I was impressed by their commitment to give back to their communities and make our world a better place.
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