Bangladeshi, Chinese firms ink $19 billion in deals during Xi's visit

Mr Xi being greeted by Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid upon his arrival in Dhaka.
Mr Xi being greeted by Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid upon his arrival in Dhaka.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DHAKA • Bangladeshi and Chinese firms have signed US$13.6 billion (S$19 billion) in trade and investment deals on the sidelines of President Xi Jinping's brief tour to the South Asian nation, a trade group official said yesterday.

The deals are in addition to US$20 billion in loan agreements that the two governments signed on Friday, in a mark of Beijing's growing ties with Dhaka, a very close ally of regional power India.

"These trade and investment deals are between Chinese companies, including some of their state firms, and Bangladesh's private sector. They are worth US$13.6 billion," said Mr Abdul Matlub Ahmad, head of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).

The deals were signed after the FBCCI, Bangladesh's top trade and business lobbyist group, and the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) organised a two-day tete-a-tete between business officials of both nations on the sidelines of Mr Xi's tour.

"We will invest in investment parks. There are many entrepreneurs in our delegation who want to invest in this country," said CCPIT vice-chairman Chen Zhou, according to local news portal bdnews24.com

Chinese investors were considering investing in infrastructural development, leather, ready-made garments, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and other sectors. Bangladesh has agreed to set up an industrial park exclusively for Chinese investors near the strategic port of Chittagong, hoping it will attract manufacturers seeking cheap labour.

As a mark of their deepening economic ties, the two nations on Friday also signed an agreement to conduct a feasibility study on a China-Bangladesh free trade agreement (FTA). Dhaka has so far been reluctant to sign a bilateral FTA with China and instead sought unilateral duty-free and quota-free access for its products in the Chinese market, the world's second-largest economy. Bilateral trade is currently heavily skewed in China's favour, with Bangladesh exporting goods worth about US$808 million last year while its imports from China stood at US$9.64 billion.

Mr Xi's visit, which ended yesterday, was the first in more than three decades by a Chinese president to Bangladesh.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline 'Bangladeshi, Chinese firms ink $19 billion in deals during Xi's visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe