webinar on “Exploring Trade & FDI Opportunities with the UK”

Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (DCCI) organized a webinar on “Exploring Trade & FDI Opportunities with the UK” on 19 August, 2020 through zoom. Md. Shahriar Alam, MP, State Minister for Foreign Affairs joined the webinar as the chief guest. British High Commissioner in Dhaka Robert Chatterton Dickson and Bangladesh High Commissioner to UK Saida Muna Tasneem also joined as special guests. DCCI President Shams Mahmud moderated the webinar. Dr. Selim Raihan, Executive Director, SANEM presented the keynote paper.

DCCI President Shams Mahmud in his welcome remarks said United Kingdom (UK) is a large trade and investment partner of Bangladesh since long. Bangladesh’s export to UK was USD 3.45 billion in FY2019-20 whereas it was USD 4.83 billion in FY2018-19, having a negative growth of 28.57%. UK becomes the second biggest foreign investor in Bangladesh registering accumulated FDI stock of USD 2.45 billion as of March, 2020. More than 200 British companies are operating in Bangladesh. To attract more investment from UK, Bangladesh needs to design innovative model of diversified product base. He also said that government may introduce infrastructure bond to attract investment from UK for developing large infrastructure projects. Continuation of Duty Free Quota Free (DFQF) access to UK and investment are inevitable to revive our export-led economic growth and employment generation especially in the COVID-hit economic scenario. He also urged concerned agencies of Bangladesh and UK to undertake necessary steps and dialogues to sign FTA focusing on comprehensive economic integration.

Md. Shahriar Alam, MP, State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that UK will give us duty and quota free access till 2027. Regarding new tariff regime Bangladesh is in the process of discussion. In the post pandemic situation, our export is in the right track, he said. To bring more FDI from UK we need to intensify and broaden partnership dialogues under proposed BD-UK joint Commission after UK’s exit from the EU. He also urged business to business close collaboration of both the countries. We also need to frame out a post-covid new market strategy and establish a digital market place to promote Bangladeshi innovative products in UK market. Besides, connecting Bangladeshi diaspora especially British- Bangladeshi youth is very important, he added.

Dr. Selim Raihan, Executive Director, SANEM and Professor of Economics, University of Dhaka in his keynote presentation said that the FDI from UK to Bangladesh in 2018 was USD 370 million which is 10% of total FDI in Bangladesh. Whereas FDI from UK to Asia in 2018 was GBP 186.46 billion but the share of Bangladesh in that was only 0.37%, he told. He termed some of the challenges for Bangladesh to attract FDI from UK and that are export diversification, inadequate policies and strategies, weak collective action of non-RMG sectors, weak enforcement of intellectual property right, high cost of doing business, slow implementation of infrastructural projects including SEZs and LDC graduation. He also suggested to initiate a dialogue for signing FTA negotiation with UK in the post-LDC graduation era.

British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson said that diversification of products is necessary to increase export competitiveness. He said pharmaceuticals, IT, education, healthcare, service and financial sector have the potential to attract UK investments. He also said that reducing cost of doing business and policy reforms are important to attract FDI. Bangla Bond in London Stock Exchange creates an opportunity for the business community of both countries to work closely together. We are also keen to strengthen our existing trade relation with Bangladesh, he added.

Saida Muna Tasneem, Bangladesh High Commissioner to UK said that chambers of commerce in Britain are not very much aware of Bangladesh. She said, exchanging regular communication between chamber to chamber is key to boost trade and investment. But she again underscored importance of products’ diversification. Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have a good opportunity to tap UK’s halal market and light engineering sector. We should try to sustain the GSP beyond the LDC graduation, she added. In the services sector, if we want the British companies to come in, there should be a policy decision the government has to take, she added.

Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, Chairman & CEO of PRAN RFL Group said that we can sign a FTA with the UK. He also urged Bangladeshi corporates to issue more bonds in the Bangla Bond in London Stock Exchange, he said. Besides, we need to diversify our export portfolio.

Sharifa Khan, Additional Secretary (FTA Wing), Ministry of Commerce said that till 2027 we will get duty and quota free market access in the UK. She underscored importance of product diversification and productivity of enterprises. She invited UK investors to invest in Bangladesh in nursing education, power and energy sector. She also urged non-resident Bangladeshis in UK to invest in Bangladesh.

Faraaz A Rahim, Executive Director, Rahimafrooz Storage Power Business stressed on exporting light engineering items to UK other than the RMG export domination. To attract FDI from UK, joint ventures with local entrepreneurs can play a vital role, he added.

Abdul Muktadir, Chairman & CEO, Incepta Pharmaceuticals Ltd. requested for UK High Commission’s help to connect Bangladeshi drug regulators with UK’s MHRA to get registration of Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals products. UK’s generic market is of about GBP 4-5 billion. He suggested to bring UK educational institutes of engineering and basic science to establish their campus in Bangladesh. It will accelerate our growth within five years of time.

Syed Almas Kabir, President, BASIS said that last year Bangladesh’s export of software and IT enabled services was of about USD 1 billion and UK was the second largest destination. He said sometimes exporters face proper branding and image crisis as an obstacle. He invited British IT companies to invest in Bangladesh’s high-tech park to produce industrial robots with a focus to knowledge transfer.

Hossain Khaled, Managing Director, Anwar Group of Industries and former President, DCCI said Bangladesh’s non-RMG export to UK is only 7%. To increase our export we need have more product diversification. He urges for reducing cost of doing business, create value chain. UK’s service industry can be attracted in the form of joint ventures, he added. Our capital gain tax is higher in the region, so he requested government to look into this issue.

Asif Ibrahim, Chairman, Chittagong Stock Exchange & former President, DCCI said that from 2014-15 to 2018-19 Bangladesh’s RMG export to UK increased from USD 2.8 billion USD 3.8 billion and the growth is increasing. He also said that the stock markets in Bangladesh are being automated soon. UK companies are welcome to invest in the capital market. He also urged more Bangladeshi corporates to raise finance utilizing Bangla Bond in the London Stock Exchange.

Abul Kasem Khan, Chairman, BUILD & former President, DCCI said we have location advantage also we are close to ASEAN. Bangladesh gets duty free market access to China and he requested UK manufacturers to invest in Bangladesh to get this facility. He also said that 6% of GDP needs to be invested for infrastructure development which is 2-3% now. He said to attract FDI we need to be competitive in terms of tax, duty and tariff structure.

Published on: 2020-08-19

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