Momen pitches for Bangladesh-Oman biz forum to bolster trade ties


Dhaka, Sept 14: Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has pitched for the involvement of the business community in both Bangladesh and Oman to expand the scope of bilateral trade and investment.

“We may consider forming a ‘Bangladesh-Oman Business Forum’ to explore and strengthen business cooperation between the two countries,” he said.

Dr Momen said that both sides need to facilitate B2B (business to business) interaction and exchange of visits among their business community.

The Foreign Minister was addressing a webinar titled ‘Bangladesh-Oman Bilateral Trade & Investment: Challenges and Opportunities’ on Monday night to celebrate ‘Mujib Year’ and the golden jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh.

Sheikh Khalifa Alharthy, Under Secretary for Diplomatic Affairs, Foreign Ministry of Oman, and Bangladesh Ambassador to the Gulf state, Mizanur Rahman, also shared their views at the webinar.

As a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member, Oman applies 5 percent customs duty for all countries, including Bangladesh.

“Although Oman individually can not offer any tariff preference to Bangladesh, Muscat can pursue GCC for DFQF market access of some of our products to Oman and the GCC market as well,” Dr Momen said.

“I propose that frequent exchange of trade delegations at official and private levels should be encouraged to expand areas of trade and strengthen bilateral trade,” he said.

Both Bangladesh and Oman, Dr Momen said, can participate in trade fairs held in each other’s capitals on a regular basis to familiarise with products.

Investment Prospects in Bangladesh

The Foreign Minister said that Bangladesh has prepared the ground for foreign investments with friendly policies and a favourable business environment.

It has put investment regulatory laws in place like Private Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act 1980, which ensures legal protection and non-discriminatory treatment for foreign investors.

As part of its liberal policy regime, Bangladesh offers various incentives like tax holiday, tax exemption and waiver of import duties, capital repatriation, ease of profit, investment opportunities in stock market for foreigners, and other preferential benefits, said the Foreign Minister.

“The government has taken active steps to improve the business climate by enhancing connectivity through infrastructure buildup and improve the ranking of Ease of Doing Business and One-stop Service for foreign investors,” Dr Momen said.

The government, he said, has also taken initiatives to establish 100 economic zones in addition to the existing Exclusive Economic Zones, and several high-tech parks for IT industries are underway.

Over 800 IT companies are now thriving in the country with an exposure to the international market, he said.

“We are ready to offer ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’ and hi-Tech parks for Omani investors,” said the Foreign Minister hoping that Oman will exploit the opportunity to profit from an investment-friendly environment in Bangladesh.

Dr Momen said Oman can invest in hotel, residential and shopping complex projects in hi-tech parks across the country. Land parcels are available in Dhaka and Sylhet for investment. “Bangladesh is willing to provide dedicated land and space for Omani investors in the ICT sector in Bangladesh.”

Blue Economy

The Foreign Minister said that the ocean economy is a highly promising investment sector in Bangladesh and it contributes to 3% of the country’s GDP.

Bangladesh has resolved its maritime boundary demarcation with neighbouring counties — India and Myanmar.

Dr Momen said Bangladesh stands ready to harness the full potential of its maritime resources. “We have identified 26 sectors to support the development of Blue Economy.”

He said Bangladesh’s blue economy presents a plethora of untapped opportunities, that is, deep sea fishing, maritime transport, energy and tourism.

Bangladesh can access deep sea fishing up to 660km, which is currently limited to 60 km. The actual fish catch in the sea is thus limited to less 9% of its true potential with 0.7m tons against 8m tons.

“We need collaboration with friendly countries, especially for access to quality technologies. In this context, Oman’s investors may consider investing in the maritime sector with their technological advancement for mutual benefits,” said the Foreign Minister.

Ship-building Industry

The ship-building industry is an incredible success story for Bangladesh, Dr Momen said. “The industry specialises in the niche market of producing smaller vessels, below 12,000 dead-weight tons.”

“Our commercial vessels are being exported to Germany, Denmark, Sweden and many other countries. Several shipyards run by our naval forces are building various vessels for defense purposes like LPC (Large Patrol Craft), LCT (Landing Craft Tank), LCU (Landing Craft Utility), PC (Patrol Craft), tugs, survey vessels and high-speed boats,” Dr Momen said.

“It is a promising sector for investment. Oman may consider sourcing their required vessels for its naval force/coast guards from Bangladesh,” he added.

Investment in Energy and Power Sector

Dr Momen said that the power and energy sector is among the top priority areas for foreign investment in Bangladesh.

“We believe that relevant authorities from both sides should have opportunities for exploring areas of cooperation in this sector. We hope for more engagement of Oman in this sector,” he said.