China proposes FTA with Bangladesh

China on Sunday proposed signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh to boost trade ties between the two countries, minimising the trade gap against Bangladesh.

The Chinese side came up with the proposal at bilateral talks between the two countries at the Foreign Ministry.

china BDForeign Minister AH Mahmood Ali led the 19-member Bangladesh side while his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi the 13-member China team at the meeting that reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations.

“China wants to start negotiation on FTA. We’ll explore the proposal,” Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque told reporters at the Foreign Ministry adding that no decision is taken yet whether Bangladesh will start the negotiation right now.

He said the Chinese side expressed satisfaction over the process of establishing an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for Chinese investors.

“They think there’ll be a solid decision next year on the matter, and hoped that it’ll take off,” said the Foreign Secretary.

He said the Chinese side indicated that they are considering a big investment in the economic zone.

Haque said Bangladesh proposed rail and road connectivity through Chittgaong-Cox’s Bazar-Myanmar-Kunming.

“Our Foreign Minister proposed it, and the Chinese side initially responded positively, especially on the road connectivity,” he added.

On Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, the Chinese side appreciated Bangladesh’s leadership role, said the Foreign Secretary.

Responding to a question, the Foreign Secretary said China reiterated its interest for building a deep seaport but Bangladesh is still considering all the proposals and new locations are in the discussion, too.

He said Bangladesh proposed hosting the Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) next year.

The Chinese Foreign Minister appreciated Bangladesh’s socioeconomic advancement under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership saying it is a role model of other developing countries.

Apart from trade, investment and infrastructure development issues, people-to-people contact, defence cooperation, maritime cooperation, energy cooperation, agriculture, climate change and cooperation in international forums were also discussed in the three-hour bilateral meeting that continued during the lunch time, too.

There were substantive discussions during lunch as well, said the Foreign Secretary adding that there will be lots of programmes next year to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and China.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque were present at the meeting. Representatives from relevant ministries and Foreign Ministry officials also took part in the meeting.

Earlier in the morning, Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali welcomed the Chinese Foreign Minister.

Before the formal beginning of the bilateral meeting, the Chinese Foreign Minister visited a historical room located on the ground floor of the ministry named ‘Bangladesh Foreign Policy Genesis: A Pictorial Exhibition’.

Wang Yi arrived here on Saturday evening and is scheduled to meet President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today.

He will also have a meeting with BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia during his stay in Dhaka.

– unb