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Dhaka, Beijing need to accelerate study on FTA, says Chinese expert

December 10, 2018 00:00:00

Bangladesh holds an important 'geopolitical strategic position' in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that offers 'great potential' to strengthen economic and trade cooperation between Bangladesh and China, says a Chinese expert.

"We should strengthen cooperation between the two governments, and at the same time focus on strengthening inter-party exchanges," Prof Li Tao, Executive Director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at Sichuan University in China, told UNB.

The BRI is a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping. This mega initiative emerged when President Xi came to power in 2013.

During Xi's historic visit to Dhaka in 2016, Bangladesh formally joined the 'Belt and Road Initiative', a drive which has already drawn the close attention of the world.

Sharing her thoughts on development of Bangladesh-China relationship under the BRI, Prof Li Tao said the two countries can accelerate the feasibility study on Bangladesh-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and then start the negotiation accordingly.

"The FTA between Bangladesh and China can effectively reduce the trade deficit. This is very important," she said emphasising the importance of actively promoting the feasibility studies to that end.

Bangladesh and China will complete the exchange of letters for zero-tariff treatment to 97 per cent of tariff items exported from Bangladesh to China within a short time, to further boost the export of Bangladeshi goods to Chinese market, according to Chinese Embassy in Dhaka.

Earlier, Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Zhang Zuo said both Bangladesh and China have highly prosperous markets that attract businesspeople from all over the world. "Faced with opportunities and challenges, we should join hands to become good partners of mutual benefits."

Ambassador Zuo said Bangladesh and China should maintain communication and consultation, adhere to the basic principles of free trade, make necessary reforms to the World Trade Organization while fully taking into consideration the interests of all parties, and safeguard the developing interests and policy space of developing countries.

Prof Li Tao, who attended Cosmos Dialogue here on Bangladesh China relations on Saturday, also shed lights on how to deal with big powers and importance of Bangladesh's political stability and policy continuity.

She also laid emphasis on overcoming administrative efficiency, social stability and investment in infrastructure and energy sector for faster growth of Bangladesh.

Sharing some suggestions for stronger Bangladesh-China relations, Prof Li Tao said the two countries should strengthen intergovernmental cooperation and promote more cities in the two countries to turn those into friendly cities.

"We need to enhance cooperation in infrastructure sector," she said focusing on close cooperation in big infrastructure projects like airports in Bangladesh.

Prof Li Tao also said China's investment in Bangladesh should promote the "localization" of projects, dock local labour and employment needs, truly benefit both sides, and earnestly increase local incomes.

She also laid emphasis on strengthening exchanges in the personnel, media cooperation, cooperation in higher education and mutual recognition of academic qualifications.

Appreciating Bangladesh-China longstanding friendly relations, the Chinese expert said similar development concepts of the two countries is the core of cooperation.

In 2017, bilateral trade value between the two countries reached US$ 16 billion, 5.8 per cent higher than last year, with China remaining the number one 1 trade partner to Bangladesh, data shows.

In the first 9 months of this year, the bilateral trade value stands at US$ 13.9 billion, with a growth rate of 19.3 per cent year on year, according to the Chinese Embassy.

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