Japan-Bangladesh economic ties
Japan and Bangladesh are Asian countries whose relations are friendly, last longing, committed and reliable development partners. To maximize the benefits in terms of faster economic growth and poverty reduction, Japan and Bangladesh will need to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation in several areas, particularly in trade and businesses. The bilateral economic and trade relations between Japan and Bangladesh are old enough and they have strong historical and cultural relation--they share many similar facts. Japan and Bangladesh flags are seen cross- pinned in the image, symbolizing the best friendship between the two nations. Since its independence in 1971, Bangladesh has consistently maintained good relations with Japan and the people of Bangladesh have a strong affinity and love towards Japan.
As a citizen, the Japanese have some special qualities; they are extremely hardworking, meticulous, and thoughtful in their deeds. They are very time-conscious and believe in themselves first before they believe others. As rice-eating nations, there are many other things in common between our two countries. The Japanese love our handicrafts and value our family traditions. They admire our simplicity of life and praise us for our resilience in facing natural disasters and calamities.
Japan always fulfils her economic interest in Bangladesh through investment. As a developing country, Bangladesh welcomes the flow of foreign investment in the country hoping for the introduction of new technology to help improve the job market and the economic growth. Now it is the fastest growing economy in the Asia pacific region and Japan is one of the largest investors and donors in Bangladesh. In 1961, Japan, for the first time, invested in Bangladesh; a joint venture textile mills. The number Japanese companies operating in Bangladesh has grown more than triple time since 2008 reaching around 310 as of December 2019.
Quoting JETRO officials in China, at least 34 Japanese companies operating in china have shown interest to relocate their units to Bangladesh because of attractiveness as an investor- friendly destination. Nearly 70.3 percent Japanese companies in Bangladesh plan to expand their business in Bangladesh according to study. According to data from the Bank of Japan FDI inflows to Bangladesh by manufacturing companies increased from US$3 million to US$ 27 million in 2018. Japan will make its largest investment in Asia at Narayanganj Arihazar economic zone and Bangladesh's economic landscape will transform in a few years with adequate support from Japanese government.
Japan is one of major sources of Foreign Direct Investment in Bangladesh and also a significant source of development aid to Bangladesh. According to statistics, up to June, 2018 Japanese companies registered with BIDA of invest more than US$2003.53 Million. Japanese investment in Bangladesh ranks 4th among the foreign investing countries after the USA, UK and Malaysia. At present, more than two hundred projects with Japanese investment or joint venture operating in Bangladesh. It is known that Bangladesh, geo-strategically located at the junction of East Asia and South Asia, may emerge as the most important hub apart from India for Japan.
From that point of view, transport network improvement, stable power supply, urban development, blue economy development, economic zone development, and private sector development such as financial accessibility promotion are the areas where Japan wishes to cooperate under its BIG-B initiative, The Mass Rapid transit project, Expansion of Dhaka's Hazarat Shajal International Airport, The Moheshkhali Materbari integrated infrastructure initiative (MIDI), an Energy Hub will be a game changer of Bangladesh. There is ample scope to invest in Bangladesh particularly in the sector like infrastructure, energy, agro processing, and textile and in service from Japan.
Japan is one of the important trading partners of Bangladesh. Bangladesh exports agro products, readymade garments, woollen goods, carpets, handicrafts, paper and paper products, leather goods, and silverware and ornaments. Bangladesh's imports from Japan include vehicles and spare parts, electronic goods, machinery and equipment, iron and steel products, photographic goods, medical equipment fabric and industrial raw materials. There is an ample scope of collaborating in trade sector by introducing Japanese production process or integrating product development by exporting raw materials in Japan. Japan has been one of major destinations for Bangladeshi goods.
In recent years, shoes, prawns, garments and leather goods are major export products to Japan. Bangladesh is trying to diversify export and develop more export oriented industries. These very constructive measures will improve the existing situation and open up a new window of opportunities for trade and investment between two preferential countries. Bangladesh exported goods worth US$1365.74 million to Japan in the2018-2019 fiscal year & US$ 1200.78 million in 2019-20 fiscal year. Similarly, Bangladesh imported goods worth US$1852.50 million from Japan in 2018-2019 fiscal year & US$ 1294.91 million in July- May of 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Every change begins with a vision and a decision to take action. Often an important social or managerial change begins with a single entrepreneurial change. In this context, a Friendship City MOU was signed Between Naruto City of Japan with Narayanganj City Corporation on 28th January, 2020 in presence of the Hon LGED Minister, Mr Tajul Islam; it was the first of its kind for any city in Bangladesh. This friendship sister city agreement was first initiated by Mr Kiminobu Hiraishi, chairman of Maruhisa Group of Japan involved in Textile business and owner of Maruhisa Pacific Co Ltd in Adamjee EPZ, Narayanganj.
In this Covid-19 pandemic time, with love and respect to sister City, Naruto City, Japan as a gesture of deep friendship has sent some health safety items for Narayanganj City Corporation. It will be considered a remarkable occasion for the Bangladesh as well as the role of Japan embassy in Bangladesh and also milestone in Japan- Bangladesh bilateral relationship.
An important characteristic of Bangladesh's relationship with Japan is the way in which the diversification of bilateral economic relationship has been grown. With the passing of time, the solid foundation of friendship and cooperation built during the last fifty years will be further strengthening in future for mutual benefits.
The writer is an ex-banker and now a director of MAS Consultants