Relations between Bangladesh and Germany have always been friendly and strong. Germany was one of the first European countries to recognise Bangladesh. Germany and Bangladesh look back to a successful and long-standing cooperation of more than forty years. Bangladesh Ambassador to Germany Imtiaz Ahmed has shared his thoughts with Dhaka Courier on Bangladesh-Germany bilateral relationship that has been intensified in all sectors including political, economic and social.
Bangladesh expects increased foreign direct investment (FDI) from Germany as the bilateral relationship between the two countries is more extensive than ever, says the Bangladesh envoy in Berlin.
“With the rapid development of infrastructure in recent years, development of SEZs and Hi-Tech Parks, easing power and energy crises; we’re expecting that FDI flow from Germany will increase,” said Ambassador Imtiaz.
High officials of Siemens met him recently and they are also exploring opportunities in hi-tech apart from the power sector, said the Ambassador who is concurrently accredited to Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.
The envoy said the current excellent Bangladesh-Germany bilateral relationship is an outcome of the inter-personal intimacy between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Responding to a question, Ambassador Imtiaz said German officials advise Bangladesh to improve its ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index with suitable policies and infrastructure in the banking sector, with one stop service at airport and seaport and improving labour standard.
“Foreign businesses place great importance on this ranking before taking an investment decision,” said the Bangladesh Ambassador.
Each year, Bangladesh participates in a number of international fairs in Germany which are mainly trade and business promotion-oriented ones.
“There’s no alternative to the dissemination of information. Therefore, we’re planning to organise one investment seminar in Germany next year to showcase the incentives and opportunities for investment in Bangladesh,” said Ambassador Imtiaz.
The seminar will be organised in association with Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA).
“We’ve already talked to DIHK (equivalent to FBCCI), GTAI (equivalent to BIDA) and Federal Foreign Office from Germany for their possible involvement. And we’re also going to organise Bangladesh Day, where we’ll focus on every possible sector of Bangladesh, including painting, photographic, book, film and culinary,” said Ambassador Imtiaz.
Responding to a question on apparel exports, he said, Germany is globally one of the two largest importers of garments from Bangladesh and as sourcing country ranks second behind China.
Out of the top five sourcing countries Bangladesh is the only country to increase its export value in the first half of 2018. In recent times, Vietnam and Cambodia have become major competitors of Bangladesh due to their shorter lead-time.
“To maintain this position, Bangladesh needs to maintain its competitive edge...by continuing to deliver value for money for the competitive and price conscious German market without neglecting trends such as organic and vegan clothing, minimising the lead time, making doing business easy with policies and adequate infrastructure and modernising the industries,” he said.
At the same time, Ambassador Imtiaz said, Bangladesh needs to focus on ‘high value’ garments as well as quality assurance.
Other important issues are the maintenance of sustainable supply chain and building social image through the improvement of social, labour and environment standards in industries, he added.
Asked about other areas of cooperation, the Ambassador said Bangladesh and Germany have agreed on three priority areas of bilateral development cooperation.
These are, he said, renewable energy and energy efficiency; good governance, the rule of law and human rights; and adaptation to climate change in urban areas.
There is cooperation in the areas like support to management of Sundarbans, small and medium sized industries development, anti-terrorism and anti-corruption.
Responding to a question on SDGs, Ambassador Imtiaz said Germany believes that the implementation of the 2030 SDGs plays a pivotal role in the development discourse and it is a priority for all countries.
“Reducing poverty and inequality, and achieving sustainable development within planetary limits are fundamental challenges that need to be tackled jointly by all countries on the basis of a new universal agenda,” he said.
Terming Germany a reliable partner of Bangladesh, the Ambassador said SDGs and the Seventh Five Year Plan of Bangladesh continue to be the frame for Bangladesh-German development cooperation.
During the last two years, the Ambassador said, the Embassy in Berlin issued about 3000 business visas, 1200 tourist, 120 employment and 100 official visas to German citizens and officials.
“This has been a dramatic increase compared to the last few years,” he said adding that they are also expecting a VIP visit from Germany to Bangladesh in the coming months.
On people-to-people contact, the Ambassador said the increase in people-to-people contact and exchange of views would definitely have a positive impact on Bangladesh-Germany relationship in the coming days.
“We’re also working on the possibility of opening some other new avenues of cooperation. Germany will be a non-permanent member of UN Security Council from January 1, 2019 for two years,” said the Ambassador adding that this will bring ample opportunities for the two countries to work closely on issues related to migration and development, Rohingya refugees, climate change, violent extremism and counter-terrorism, UN peacekeeping and Blue Economy.
Ambassador Imtiaz said, “I’m confident that our relationships would further deepen and be strengthened in the coming days.”
He said German company-SIEMENS is going to invest US$ 7 billion in the power sector of Bangladesh for the production of 8000 MW electricity. “This would be the largest foreign investment in Bangladesh.”
The increase in people to people contact and exchange of views, the Ambassador thinks, would definitely have a positive impact on our relations in coming days - in bilateral development cooperation, promotion of investment and trade; and cooperation in international fora.
Ties with Czech, Slovakia, Romania
With Czech Republic, the Ambassador said an agreement on trade and investment is at the final stage-- awaiting signature only. “Besides, talks are going on regarding avoidance of double taxation.”
He said the prospects of sending skilled and semiskilled manpower exist in all three countries - to Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.
“We’ve been in touch with the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment for already expressed interest shown by a Romanian company to recruit Bangladeshi workers; this company is in touch with Bangladesh Overseas Employment & Services Limited now,” said Ambassador Imtiaz.
He said there are also scopes for Bangladesh’s investment in setting up of small and medium enterprises in all these three countries.
Particularly, Germany has a Federal Association for Silk Road Initiative which focuses on establishment of SMEs in other European countries to counter/balance the Chinese One Road One Belt initiative.