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Debapriya: Dhaka-Beijing ties can be prime mover for Bangladesh’s transformation

  • Published at 05:54 pm July 5th, 2021
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya
File photo of Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya Collected

He, however, says it will largely depend on how Bangladesh prepares for it, address the prerequisites, and be careful about the pitfalls which lie in the way

Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya has said there is full potential for the Dhaka-Beijing relationship to be a prime mover for the economic and social transformation of Bangladesh in the next decade.

He, however, said it will largely depend on how Bangladesh prepares for it, address the prerequisites, and be careful about the pitfalls which lie in the way.

The economist said Bangladesh must insist that the duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access extended by China to Bangladesh be extended beyond the graduation of Bangladesh from the least-developed country (LDC).


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“Because, beyond graduation, we will still need market access support from our developing partners, including the south-south partners,” he said while addressing a virtual roundtable.

Debapriya hoped that China will declare that the duty-free quota-free market access will be available for Bangladesh, at least for the first nine years after the graduation.

“The European Union and others are being persuaded to do so. The issue is on the table at the WTO. Thankfully, China, India and other southern countries are supporting us,” he added.

Due to the pandemic, the bilateral trade volume was dented with a 13.6% drop to $15.9 billion last year.

However, the “resilience and dynamism” of the two economies make it reasonable to expect a huge rebound this year.

According to statistics from China Customs, the trade volume in the first four months of 2021 is $7.19 billion with a 42.9% year-on-year increase.

China’s export to and import from Bangladesh respectively stand at $6.84 billion and $350 million, growing by 43.8% and 28.1%.

Last year, China granted 97% duty-free access to Bangladeshi products, which is seen as an important step towards a higher level of bilateral trade liberalization.

Earlier, Bangladesh used to export over 5,000 goods and now another 3,000 goods have been added to it.

“So, we can export 8,256 items to the Chinese market, which is a great achievement,” Debapriya said.

He said the Bangladesh-China relationship needs to be understood in the global context and also in the regional context — not only in the bilateral context.

Debapriya said it is important that Bangladesh gets China more involved in creating the regional and global value chain in the country.

“Bangladesh and China should be together in the global and regional value chain.”


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Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming delivered the keynote speech at the virtual roundtable, titled “Bangladesh China Relations: Prognosis of the Future.”

It was hosted by the Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, as part of its ongoing Ambassador’s Lecture Series.

The opening remarks were delivered by the Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan. The session was chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, renowned scholar-diplomat and former advisor on Foreign Affairs to the Bangladeshi caretaker government.

Ambassador Tariq A Karim, Debapriya Bhattacharya, former foreign secretary Shamsher Chowdhury, Assistant Researcher of the Institute for International Studies at Yunnan University Dr Zou Yingmeng, Assistant Research Fellow at China Institute of International Studies Dr Ning Shengnan, former ambassador Serajul Islam, and Dhaka University Professor Dr Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir comprised the panel of discussants.