In an exclusive interview with DhakaTribune’s Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, the German Ambassador to Bangladesh, Peter Fahrenholtz, speaks about different aspects of the relations between the two countries dating back to about half a century. The envoy also put forward some suggestions on how Bangladesh could attract more investments from other countries, including Germany.
How do you describe the current bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Germany? How could they be further enhanced?
Relations between Germany and Bangladesh built on a very solid basis are very good. The relationship goes back almost 50 years. It has always been very dependable.
There is a lot of scope to improve the relationship. Bangladesh has been successful. Bangladesh has moved ahead in so many areas. It is the 38th largest economy of the world. It has the largest growth rate in Asia. Development-wise, it has been a success story. Geographically, it’s strategically located. Regionally and globally, Bangladesh is becoming an important actor. I think Germany and the European Union can really try to deepen relations with Bangladesh. Both countries are taking measures diplomatically, politically and economically through high-ranking visits.
What are the new areas of cooperation by which both countries can be benefited?
Academic exchanges and exchange of students and researchers can be mentioned here. The number of Bangladeshi students in Germany dramatically increased in 2019 as compared with the previous year. But we want more Bangladeshi students to study in Germany. Many universities offer courses in English. We are trying to promote this. We are also trying to enhance cooperation with regard to civil society, schools and NGOs and sports, including football.
Are you satisfied with the present trade volume between Dhaka and Berlin? How can it be increased?
No, I am not happy. We are the second or third largest single destination for Bangladeshi garments. We want Bangladesh to export more to Germany. We can provide consumer products for its growing middle class. Bangladesh’s middle class deserves new cars. They deserve to buy new cars produced or assembled in Bangladesh instead of second hand cars from other countries. If assembled or produced here, the cost of German cars will be lower than that of second hand cars. If good business proposals can be made, German car companies will be interested in producing cars here.
Is German investment in Bangladesh satisfactory? What more does Bangladesh need to do to attract more German investment?
I think it is not satisfactory. As of now, 70 German companies are working in Bangladesh while the Japanese have more than 300. Hopefully, more German companies will find their way to the Bangladesh market. There is scope for more investment by German companies in Bangladesh as Bangladesh is going to be a middle income country….Great potential here in all areas.
But, in order to attract more investment from different countries, including Germany, the third largest economy of the world, the government must take measures with respect to bureaucracy, corruption and legal framework that are a deterrent to investment. I know a big European company wanted to invest in Bangladesh, but stepped back due to bureaucracy and corruption. I welcome the new push of your Prime Minister against corruption. I hope this can be successful.
Do you think the international community is doing enough to solve the Rohingya crisis? What do you think the solution is to this protracted crisis?
It is very disappointing that we have seen little progress. The international community has done a lot. The EU imposed targeted sanctions. Procedures are there at the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court and United Nations Human Rights Council. This will create more pressure on Myanmar.
Punitive measures, including broad-based sanctions, are on the table. We need to do what is needed so that the repatriation of the Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh is completed in a sustainable manner. Our support for Bangladesh will continue.
We also need to protect civil society and the little influence democracy has in Myanmar.