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

Portugal: Bangladesh’s next big EU trade partner?

  • Published at 07:22 pm October 16th, 2021
Portugal fish market
A fishmonger wears a face mask as she works at Benfica's local market during a national lockdown to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 disease, in Lisbon on April 23, 2020 AFP

According to Portuguese statistics, in 2020 Bangladesh exported 71.01 million euros' worth of goods, while importing goods worth 12.87 million euros

With the Covid-19 situation gradually improving across the world, and the global economy showing signs of recovery, Bangladesh's bilateral trade with Portugal, a key member of the European Union, is expected to go up significantly.

Tarik Ahsan, ambassador of Bangladesh to Portugal, told Dhaka Tribune that as Portugal vaccinated 80% of its population, bilateral trade between the two countries is set to gain momentum in the new normal.

In the financial year 2020-21, Bangladesh exported goods valued at $75.97 million, or 64 million euros, as per Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data.

However, no EPB data was available about Bangladesh's import from Portugal in the same fiscal year.

According to Portuguese statistics, in 2020 Bangladesh exported 71.01 million euros' worth of goods, while importing goods worth 12.87 million euros.

Amsaddaor Ahsan also said that Portugal’s economy is on track for a sound recovery beginning in the second quarter of 2021, along with the gradual relaxation of pandemic restrictions.

Its GDP is forecast to increase by 3.9% in 2021 and 5.1% in 2022, returning to its pre-pandemic level economy by mid-2022.

Also Read - Portuguese president lauds migrant Bangladeshis

After the United Kingdom and Italy, a good number of Bangladeshis have also been living in Portugal over the years in different sectors.

Some 15,000-20,000 Bangladeshis are engaged in different sectors in Portugal and their contribution to the EU country is well recognized by its society and the government, ' said Tarik Ahsan.

Both the Portuguese society and government lauded Bangladesh on its socioeconomic development including economic growth, empowerment of women and gender parity, he also said.

Referring to his meeting with the Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Ahsan said that the president praised the migrant Bangladeshis living in the EU country for their diligence and sincerity in work.

Challenges to trade expansion

However, the Bangladeshi envoy also said that it is also natural for them (Portugal) to give priority to the Portuguese-speaking migrants from countries like Brazil, Peru, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Timor-Leste, Macao, etc.

Asked about the European Commission (EC)'s proposed temporary restrictive measures on short-stay visas, Tarik Ahsan said that the restriction proposal by the EC appeared to be dependent on approval at the European Council, where member states will have their say.

If that proposal is approved at the European Council, all member states will be obliged to apply the restrictions. Although Portugal is generally not in favour of any such restrictive measures, it will have to abide by the European decision, if or when it is made, he also said.

On the other hand, obtaining a Portuguese visa is difficult for Bangladeshis as there is no Portuguese Embassy in Dhaka.

Moreover, non-essential visits to Portugal are currently not allowed from most countries, except for EU countries and some selected countries considered safe in light of the pandemic.

The European Commission has proposed temporary restrictive measures on short-stay visas for Bangladesh due to insufficient cooperation on the readmission of illegal immigrants from the country in European Union member states.

The proposal was made last month, according to a press release from the commission cited by SchengenVisaInfo.com.

Also Read - Are Bangladeshi goods ending up in too few markets?

Ahsan, a career diplomat and a graduate of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), presented his credentials to Portuguese President Prof Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at Belém Palace in Lisbon on December 18 last year.

He said that the economic relationship needs to be enhanced to its full potential and the Portuguese government is considering opening a resident Embassy in Dhaka in the near future.

The Portuguese president made the remarks when the newly appointed Ambassador of Bangladesh to Portugal Tarik Ahsan presented his credentials to the president at Belém Palace recently.

The Bangladesh government is procuring property for its Embassy in Lisbon and said that this would contribute to the expanding of relations between the two countries, Tarik Ahsan added.

Meanwhile, the two countries discussed the bilateral issues in the first-ever bilateral Political Consultations held in Lisbon in 2018. Bangladesh and Portugal have agreed to enhance the existing bilateral relations for mutual benefits of the two countries.

The then Secretary Bilateral and Consular of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Ambassador Kamrul Ahsan led the Bangladesh side while Director General of Foreign Policy of Portuguese Foreign Ministry Ambassador Pedro Sanchez Da Costa Pereira led the Portuguese delegation.

The discussions covered the entire gamut of Bangladesh - Portugal relations including trade and investment, power and energy particularly renewable energy, blue economy and maritime resources, tourism and culture, employment opportunity for Bangladeshi workforce, regional and international issues such as Brexit, Rohingya, climate change, and other issues of mutual interests.

Referring to the ongoing mega projects in Bangladesh, the Portuguese side expressed their interest to take part in the upcoming projects particularly in infrastructure, ICT, power and renewable energy sectors.

The two sides agreed to hold regular political consultations and regular exchange of visits at all levels including political, business, civil society and people's groups to boost up relations between the two countries.

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