Taking advantage of regional economic crisis, Pakistan and Bangladesh begin a new horizon of ‘Economic diplomacy’
Mehjabin Bhanu is a Bangladeshi writer, columnist, commentator on international affairs specially South Asian affairs.
Bangladesh and Pakistan together make up 5 percent of the world’s population. The possibilities of market value in the case of export and import between these two states are inevitably huge.
But the trade between the two countries of 39 crore people is now only 6-7 hundred million dollars. This is a very small share in the exports of both countries. In 2019-20, only 50 million worth of goods went from Bangladesh to Pakistan.
It has the potential to grow exponentially. The industrial sector of both countries has expanded tremendously in the last 50 years. The industrialists of the previous generation knew the details of each other’s people and markets. The next generation of industrialists is unable to make use of that historical experience due to a lack of political action. But a piece of news brings new hope regarding economic ties between Bangladesh and Pakistan.
But this time, a 35-Member Business Delegation from Pakistan is expected to participate at the Handover-Takeover Ceremony of the Bangladesh Presidency to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Chambers of Commerce and Industries (SAARC ICC) for the Term 2023-2024. The Handover-Takeover Ceremony of the Bangladesh Presidency was taken place in Dhaka during 24-25 May 2023.
Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad and the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Karachi have extended necessary supports including extending necessary visas to the business delegation from Pakistan. The Missions also coordinated with the Federation of the Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Headquarters in Karachi. Two groups of seven businesspersons from FPCCI called on the Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi. They discussed issues of promoting mutual trade and commerce between the two countries bilaterally and under the aegis of the SAARC ICC.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) has taken over the SAARC Presidency for the term 2023-2024. The handover-takeover ceremony was held in Bangladesh with the presence of the SAARC ICC Executive Committee. The General Assembly of the SAARC ICC was held during 24-25 May 2023 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The SAARC ICC Members from Pakistan visited Bangladesh to attend the SAARC ICC event of handover-Takeover Ceremony of its Presidency for the Term 2023-2024.
The Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Karachi S. M. Mahbubul Alam elaborated that the SAARC ICC encourage Trade, Service, Industry, Small & Medium Enterprise, and Agriculture, Intra-Regional through creating strong business linkages amongst the entrepreneurs of the region of South Asia. It also makes recommendations to safeguard the economic and business interests of the SAARC member countries. Further the body serve as a consultative body of the Private Sector of the region to provide input / feedback on regional economic issues. SAARC ICC also encourage Member Countries to accord preferential terms of trade to each other and finally strive towards the gradual realization of the SAARC Economic and Monetary Union. The SAARC body also promote the exchange of commercial, technical, industrial management and scientific information, education and know-how amongst its members and also collate, collect and disseminate statistical data and conduct joint research and development among the SAARC Member Countries.
Bangladesh Deputy High Commissioner in Karachi S. M. Mahbubul Alam mentioned that the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Dhaka will warmly welcome the business delegation from Pakistan. He further expressed his optimism that as the President of the SAARC ICC Bangladesh would play a significant role in promoting the causes of the organization.
Executive of TDAP M. Zubair Motiwala received the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Pakistan, Ruhul Amin Siddiqui at TDAP Office on May 25. CE TDAP and the high commissioner of Bangladesh exchanged thoughts on increasing bilateral trade between the two countries and agreed to enhance the existing trade volume between the two countries. CE TDAP also expressed his gratitude for the support of high commissioner for exchange of information related to trade between the two countries related to trade. The bilateral trade has remained in favor of Pakistan with the trade surplus of $521 million in the year 2020, However, the trade volume during the period has been inclining from $704m in 2016 to $834m in 2019, except in 2020 when it has declined to $645 million, which is believed to be the economic effect of Covid-19. The meeting ended with a vote of thanks and exchange of souvenirs.
Pakistan’s goods and services trade with Bangladesh witnessed a surplus of 18.64 percent during first five months of current fiscal year (2022-23) as compared to the corresponding period of last year.
The trade surplus during the months under review was recorded at $329.668 million against $277.863 million during same months of last year, showing 18.64 percent growth.
The overall exports to Bangladesh were recorded at $365.290 million during July-November (2022-23) against exports of $ 316.680 million during July- November (2021-22), showing growth of 15.34 percent, SBP data revealed.
Meanwhile, on year-to-year basis, exports to Bangladesh during November 2022 witnessed a nominal decrease of 2.66 percent, from US $ 72.356 million to US $70.431 million.
Similarly on month-on-month basis, exports of Bangladesh were rose by 16.69 percent during November 2022 in comparison with exports of US $ 60.355 million in October 2022, SBP data said.
Overall Pakistan’s exports to other countries witnessed a decrease of 2.01 percent in first five months, from US $ 12.313 billion to US $ 12.065 billion, the SBP data revealed.
On the other hand, the imports from Bangladesh during the period under review were recorded at $ 35.622 million against $38.817 million last year, showing a decrease of 8.23 percent.
Meanwhile, year-to-year basis, imports from Bangladesh during November 2022 also decreased by 18.25 percent from US $10.559 million last year to US $8.631 million.
On month-on-month basis, the import from Bangladesh increased by 20.37 percent during November 2022 when compared to the import of US $7.170 million in October 2022, SBP data said.
The overall imports into the country witnessed decrease of 16.15 percent, from $29.663 billion to US $ 24.872 billion, according to the data.
Bangladesh and Pakistan began ‘seed trade’ recently.Syngenta Bangladesh Limited has started exporting vegetable seeds to Pakistan. Through this, a new horizon has been opened in the export of agricultural products. It will increase foreign exchange reserves in the country as well as create employment. Syngenta started exporting vegetable seeds to Pakistan and going forward it has the plan to export seeds to more destinations. This endeavour will help to expedite this increasing trend of export and Syngenta is proud to be part of this illustrious journey.
On the other hand, Bangladesh can export its world-class medicines, apparel, agro-products, halal foods, ceramics, etc.
Bangladesh and Pakistan can indeed profit by growing business relations. Pakistan can export cotton, yarn, fabric, leather, inorganic chemicals, vegetables and electronics (fan), halal foods to Bangladesh. There is a high demand for these products in Bangladesh.
On the other hand, Bangladesh can export its world-class medicines, apparel, agro-products, halal foods, ceramics, etc. Bangladesh can benefit from using Pakistan’s Gwadar port and China-run CPEC. Bangladeshi products can be exported to Central Asia and imported from the region easily.
As a result, Pak-Bangladesh ties would boost up more. Both sides can also work in promoting cooperation in the areas of science and technology, information technology, health care, digital cooperation, SME [small and medium-sized enterprises] development, tourism, etc.
Bangladesh has vast experience in dealing with refugees, tackling climate change approach, countering terrorism, human resource development. Pakistan has experience in the sector of religious tourism. Both countries can exchange these advantages.
However, there are many potentials in economic relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan. But this should be realized by the government of Pakistan for its interest. Because they need Bangladesh’s help and support in reviving their fragile economy and raising various regional issues at all international forums.
The sooner the Pakistani government realizes this, the better for them. Pakistan and Bangladesh can gain by growing trade ties.