South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, during his three-day official visit (July 13-15) to Bangladesh, expressed his country's desire to take Dhaka-Seoul ties to the next level through stronger collaboration in key areas to bring mutual prosperity.

He highly appreciated Bangladesh's significant progress over the past years and laid emphasis on cooperation in three major areas -- energy and infrastructure and ICT -- diversifying products to boost Bangladesh's export beyond the readymade garment industry.

During his official talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the South Korean Prime Minister assured Bangladesh of considering duty-free and quota-free market access for all Bangladeshi products to their market as the bilateral trade is heavily tilted towards Korea.

During the talks, Sheikh Hasina requested South Korea to consider allowing duty-free and quota-free market access for all of Bangladeshi products without any exception to narrow down the trade imbalance as the trade between the two countries is heavily tilted towards Korea.

At the bilateral talks, Hasina said Korea has substantial investment in textiles, tanneries and footwear factories in EPZs of Bangladesh.

Recalling that Korean companies were the first to invest in the RMG sector in Bangladesh during her first term in 1996-2001, she said Korea may invest in 'Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar' which is the most potential investment hub for the investors under G2G and PPP model.

The Prime Minister urged South Korea to import woven garments, pharmaceuticals, knitwear, jute and jute products, leather and leather goods, frozen food, ceramic items from Bangladesh.

On the Rohingya issue, the Korean team highly appreciated Bangladesh for giving shelter to the forcibly-displaced people. They said anything that they can do they will do over the Rohingya issue.

The Korean Prime Minister, while addressing the Bangladesh-Korea Business Forum with a theme 'Promoting Business Ties Today: Bringing Mutual Prosperity Tomorrow' at a city hotel, expressed his country's deep interest to invest in energy, infrastructure, ICT, IT and other potential sectors in Bangladesh for enhancing economic cooperation.

Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Sheikh Fazle Fahim and Korea International Trade Association (KITA) CEO and Chairman Young Ju Kim spoke at the Forum jointly organised by KITA and the FBCCI. Prime Minister's adviser on private industry and investment Salman F Rahman and business leaders were present.

Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi called Korea as the significant development partner of Bangladesh, and hoped that the visit of Korean Prime Minister will open up new avenue of cooperation in all aspects.

Industries Minister Nurul Majid mentioned that Korea is the 6th largest foreign investor in Bangladesh and his Ministry is working as facilitator for making conducive environment for the investor.

He hoped that the KITA in cooperation with FBCCI will continue its efforts to materialise its mission to promote trade and investment among Bangladesh, Korea and the rest of the Asian region through creating a dynamic platform for networking, promotion and business services.

FBCCI chief Fahim said Bangladesh has one of the most liberal and flexible investment regimes in South Asia to attract foreign direct investment. "Ease of doing business measures is being addressed at the highest level."

He said South Korea's Super Petrochemical has proposed investments worth US$ 2.38 billion in petrochemicals which will positively contribute towards investment relations between the two countries.

As an important trade partner, the FBCCI chief said, the bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Korea stands about US$ 1.5 billion in the last fiscal year.

The FBCCI and KITA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the FBCCI to strengthen economic and commercial relations. Sheikh Fahim and Yung Zu Kim signed the MoU on behalf of their respective organisation.

Earlier, two sessions titled 'Korean Government's New Southern Policy and Korea-Bangladesh Cooperation Strategies' and 'Best Practices of Korea-Bangladesh Cooperation' were held.

Executive Member of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) Nabhash Chandra Mandal made a presentation on 'Korea-Bangladesh Investment Cooperation and Future Outlook and Senior Vice President of KT Corporation Lee Sun Joo presented separate paper on 'KT-Bangladesh Partnership'.

In the second session, KEPZ President Jahangir Saadat made a presentation on 'Best Practices in Youngone and Korean EPZ' while Regional Director of Hyundai Engineering and Construction RyuChul Ho made a presentation on 'The Bridge of Mutual Cooperation.'

Director of Bangladesh Computer Council Mohammad Enamul Kabir made another presentation on 'Korea-Bangladesh IT Cooperation.'

The FBCCI President said bilateral trade prospects are promising with duty free quota free market access to 90.4 percent of Bangladesh's tariff line to Korea.

He highlighted a number of areas to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries that include business cooperation and investments through mergers and acquisition in electronics, automobiles, telecommunications, shipbuilding, chemicals and steel.

The apex trade body chief laid emphasis on joint high-tech research, development and innovation JVs on light, medium and heavy industries.

He also talked about the importance of joint exploration and joint ventures on blue economy.

Bangladesh exported total amount of US$ 293.69 million to South Korea in 2018-19 and imported products worth US$ 981.20 million, according to FBCCI.

The principal export products of Bangladesh to South Korea are knitwear, woven garments, footwear and leather and leather goods etc.

The import items from South Korea are vehicles, aircraft, vessels and associated transport equipment, base metals, articles of base metal, machinery and mechanical appliances; electrical equipment and parts and chemical products.

Dhaka, Seoul sign 3 instruments

On July 14, Bangladesh and South Korea signed three instruments on strengthening cooperation in the areas of investment, culture and diplomatic training. The instruments were inked after the official talks between the two countries at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in Dhaka.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her South Korean counterpart Lee Nak-yon witnessed the signing ceremony.

The instruments are a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), a document on cultural exchange programme between Bangladesh and South Korea for the years 2019-2023, and a MoU on cooperation between the Korea National Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, South Korea and the Foreign Service Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh.

BIDA Executive Chairman Kazi M Aminul Islam and KOTRA Chief executive officer Kwon Pyung- Oh signed the first instrument on behalf of their respective sides, while Cultural Affairs Secretary in-charge Dr Md Abu Hena Mostofa Kamal and Vice Foreign Minister of South Korea Lee Tae Ho inked the second instrument.

Principal of Foreign Service Academy Syed Masud Mahmood Khundoker and Vice Foreign Minister of South Korea Lee Tae Ho signed the third instrument on behalf of their respective sides.

Tributes to Bangabandhu, Liberation War martyrs

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon paid homage to the memories of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by placing a wreath in front of his portrait at Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at Dhanmondi in the city.

After placing the wreath, the Korean Prime Minister stood in solemn silence for some time. Prime Minister Lee took a tour to the museum and signed the visitors' book there.

Chairperson of National Advisory Council on Neurodevelopment Disorder and Autism Saima Wazed Hossain received Korean Prime Minister Lee at the museum.

Saima, also daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and granddaughter of Bangabandhu, briefed him about the history of the Father of the Nation.

Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury and member secretary of Bangabandhu Memorial Trust Sheikh Hafizur Rahman were also present.

On Sunday, he paid tributes to the memories of Liberation War martyrs by placing a wreath at the National Mausoleum.

The South Korean Prime Minister left Dhaka by a special flight on July 15 wrapping up his three-day official visit to Bangladesh.

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