China and Bangladesh are good neighbours and good partners. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the friendship between the two countries has been fully reflected. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bangladesh in 1975, the bilateral trade volume has grown rapidly in the context of bilateral friendship.
In the year when diplomatic relations were established, the bilateral trade volume between China and Bangladesh was only US$ 3.06 million. While in 2019, the volume reached US$18.33 billion, a dramatic rise compared to that of the initial time.
At the same time, China has become the largest trading partner of Bangladesh, and Bangladesh the second largest trading partner of China in South Asia.
The trade volume between the two countries has maintained a relatively high level of growth in the past five years, with a growing rate of 24.6%, highlighting the rapid development of economic cooperation between China and Bangladesh.
China-Bangladesh economic cooperation has been further consolidated under the Belt and Road Initiative, where the two countries provide each other with goods and services of excellent quality and at reasonable price, and truly bring a sense of gain to the two peoples.
To fulfil the promise made by Chinese President Xi Jingping to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, China is granting zero tariff access of 97 percent Bangladesh products to Chinese market from July 1, 2020, which is becoming a landmark starting point and new opportunity to promote the bilateral trade development.
With the sweeping effect of COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world, the world trade has been suffering a heavy blow, and the trade between China and Bangladesh has also been affected.
According to statistics from China, the trade volume from January to April of 2020 between China and Bangladesh was USD 5.02 billion, 16% down compared to the same period last year. It is high time that the 97% zero tariff treatment come out, which will definitely help the trade between our two countries to recover from the COVID-19 trauma, and enhance export from Bangladesh to China so as to alleviate the trade imbalances.
China encourages Bangladesh trade companies to make full use of the 97% zero tariff treatment to expand market share in China and be of positive effect to the improvement of the economic and social development of Bangladesh as well as the well beings of the Bangladesh people.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic around the world has caused difficulties to the economic development of Bangladesh, it has not changed the fact that the working-age population is abundant, the demographic dividend is yet to be fully realised and the industrial growth potential is huge. With annual GDP growth of more than 6% for many years, Bangladesh will remain one of the most dynamic economies in South Asia and the world.
Garment export industry is the biggest advantageous industry of Bangladesh, accounting for the majority of the country's exports. In 2019, China imported textile, clothing and accessories from Bangladesh amounting to USD 590 million, accounting for about 57% of the total import.
The export potential of Bangladesh lies in the need to develop manufacturing industry, break through the limitations of its own industrial structure, continuously improve the quality of export products and shift to higher value-added exports. Over the past 40 years, Bangladesh garment manufacturing industry has made great progress, and its export volume has increased significantly.
However, it still has great potential in terms of the types of export commodities, the improvement of production efficiency, the diversification of export commodities, the improvement of technical content of products and the transfer of products with higher added value.
In addition, Bangladesh is rich in agricultural products, livestock products, tropical fruits and seafood. Through industrial upgrading, expanding production scale and improving product quality, Bangladesh has the full potential to continuously expand its exports to China.
China has a large market with a population of more than 1.4 billion. China sincerely opens its market to other countries. In 2019, China's total trade value of goods was about US$ 4.5 trillion, of which imports accounted for about US$ 2.2 trillion. It is estimated that in the next 15 years, China’s imports will exceed US$30 trillion.
China's import will continue to maintain great potential, providing a strong guarantee for China's economic development and a huge market for high-quality products of Bangladesh. It will be a win-win cooperation for China and Bangladesh to fully explore China's import capability, catch up with the demand of the Chinese market, and strengthen bilateral trade.
The continuous development of bilateral trade will also provide a solid foundation for the realisation of Bangladesh’s development visions such as “Sonar Bangla” and “Digital Bangladesh”.
Deepening cooperation in bilateral trade between China and Bangladesh is an inevitable choice to benefit the national economies and livelihoods, enhance the friendship between the two countries and effectively respond to the outbreak of the pandemic.
The difficulties caused by the pandemic are just temporary, while the friendship and trade development between China and Bangladesh would be long-lasting. With the implementation of 97% zero tariff treatment, China-Bangladesh economic and trade cooperation will definitely enter a significant new stage.
Li Jiming is the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Bangladesh