Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday lauded Tokyo's contribution in Bangladesh's development and said they were expecting a "new wave" of Japanese origin companies and joint ventures after the Japanese economic zone at Araihazar would be ready in 2022.
"Bangladesh deeply values the strong, wide and deep layers of relations that Bangladesh shares with Japan," he said while speaking at the 'Japan-Bangladesh Investment Summit 2021'. "While Japan is a very important development partner of Bangladesh, Bangladesh is also an important source of intermediate materials and a significant trade partner of Japan, as well as a noteworthy destination for investment."
Salman F Rahman, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Private Industry and Investment, and Ito Naoki, Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh were also present.
The foreign minister said the trade relation between Japan and Bangladesh is now at a "unique height" with a trade volume of $3 billion while export to Japan is $1.2 billion and import from Japan is $1.8 billion.
"Japan is among the top 5 foreign investors in Bangladesh according to the cumulative Foreign Direct Investment. Over the last 50 years, we have received US$ 16 Billion funding from Japan for several development projects in Bangladesh. We greatly appreciate this," he said.
There are already 320 Japanese companies engaged in ready-made garments, trading, development projects, service sector and private investment in Bangladesh.
"Bangladesh deeply appreciates Japan's contribution and support in constructing more than 550 bridges, 117 cyclone shelters, supporting hundreds of SMEs and hundreds (526) ongoing technical cooperation projects. In addition, our young and highly hardworking workers, both male and female, can contribute to the development of Japan, especially in the service sector," said the foreign minister.
Leveraging on Bangladesh’s intrinsic geographic, economic, demographic and other plusses, he said, "I strongly believe that both countries can reap mutual benefit further by exploring further trade opportunities through improved connectivity between these two countries."
"It would pave the way forward to the greater economic strength and unhindered movement for people of these two regions."
"We have a long history of resilience in the business and governance areas and we wish to ensure that Bangladesh remains on top of the list for the Comity of Nations whenever or wherever business, trade or administrative solutions are needed. We wish to serve the global markets - both industrial and consumer - in the best ways possible. All our missions abroad have been instructed accordingly to support business and economic initiatives," the foreign minister said.
"One of the major avenues that we are looking at is the ICT sector. The ICT sector does not only confine itself to the business of computers and communication. Rather, it is slowly proliferating into every sphere of human action and even thoughts. We would like to create a knowledge-based economy. Thoughts ultimately define our actions and we wish to leverage the design capabilities that we have in Bangladesh to penetrate into the global markets for thoughts," he said.
The strategic geographical location of Bangladesh at the crossroads of South and Southeast Asia and at the northern apex of the Bay of Bengal makes Bangladesh and demographic dividend, abundance of labour, stable political condition, astute leadership, infrastructural development, resilient and diligent population, emerging market of 165 million people with strong connectivity with its neighbours have made Bangladesh an attractive investment destination, where return on investment is relatively high.
"We emphasise on building quality infrastructure in power, energy, and connectivity across all modes of communication," he said.
"To ensure connectivity in all parts of Bangladesh and with its neighbours, the current government took the initiative to build the Padma bridge, the tunnel under the Karnaphuli River, doubling the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway, expanding the railroads, elevated expressways, metro rail in the capital, dredging of all river routes, building deep seaports, modernising land ports and seaports, building sea terminals, multiple international airports, roads, rails and water connectivity with BBIN, BIMSTEC and ASEAN.
"At the same time, we have ensured that our agriculture grows, in a way that benefits the small and marginal farmers. We are also trying to connect the agriculture sector to the global value chain. We are extensively introducing our youth to ICT and all forms of IT-enabled skill- based services – so that they can leapfrog and catch up with the rest of the world in the digital domain.
"We want to participate equitably in the design space which would one day lead us to an AI enabled global economy. In all these areas and beyond, our government and our private sector continue to work together for bringing in innovative, home-grown solutions to developmental challenges, in spite of limited resources.
"Japan is one of our leading partners in the plethora of mega-projects in terms of finance, construction, capitalisation and technology.
"There are many areas where Japan and Bangladesh could engage as partners in development – be that in the development of infrastructure, or be that in incubation of emerging sectors like ICT. Bangladesh welcomes investment, trade and engagement at both G-to-G and P-to-P levels.
"Along with traditional sectors like Readymade garments, leather goods, Bangladesh is very interested to cooperate and have partnerships with Japan at different level and increase bilateral trade volume in Energy sector, IT/ITES, Fintech, Pharmaceuticals, Automotive and Light Engineering, Small and medium enterprises, plastic products, jute and textiles, FMCG and biomedical engineering products.
"We are very much enthusiastic to be engaged in business, production and technology transfer in modern technology domains such as, but not limited to Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, Advanced manufacturing and multidimensional printing, Fintech, Advanced materials, Semiconductor Design/pre-fab/fabrication, New computing technologies, Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual and augmented realities, Machine learning, Deep learning, Design space, Biotechnologies, Neurotechnologies, Biometrics etc," said the foreign minister.