Saturday June 04 2005 - Bangladesh will propose a Free Trade Agreementwith Malaysia in Bangladesh-Malaysia Joint Commission (JC) meeting to beheld on June 6-7, after a break of 10 years. A foreign ministry officialyesterday said Dhaka would also seek duty-free access for 19 Bangladeshiproducts to the Malaysian market, and propose setting up a Joint TradeCommission.
Other issues likely to figure prominently in the talks include manpowerexport, visa, joint investment in energy and agriculture sector,introduction of direct shipping as well as co-operation in IT, health,education and cultural sectors.The last JC meeting was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1994 after it was set upin 1992 to foster co-operation between the two countries in varioussectors.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid bin Syed Zafar Al Bar arrives inDhaka on June 6. He will lead his country at the 3rd JC meet whileBangladesh Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan will lead the home side.
Meetings at senior official- and secretary-levels on June 5 and 6 willprecede the ministerial-level JC meeting on June 7.
Deputy Secretary General at the Malaysian Foreign Ministry Haji Selim binHashim will hold talks with Economic Relations Division (ERD) SecretaryIsmail Jabiullah on June 6.
The foreign ministry official said the upcoming JC meeting bears a greatsignificance for strengthening both political and economic ties betweenthe two Muslim countries.
Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur bilateral ties apparently plumbed new depths afterBangladesh had announced its candidature for the OIC secretary generalpost, for which Malaysia too was a contender.
Both the foreign ministers will have a breakfast meeting on June 7 beforeleading their sides at the JC meeting. Political issues are likely to bediscussed at the breakfast meeting.
The Malaysian foreign minister is scheduled to call on Prime MinisterKhaleda Zia on June 7.
Kuala Lumpur's present investment in Bangladesh stands around US$ 100million in various sectors, including telecommunications, palm oilrefinery, and construction. It also has investment in capacity building inthe fisheries sector under an OIC project.
The emerging economic powerhouse for Asia, Malaysia is also keen to investin low-cost housing projects and power sector in Bangladesh.
Currently, the two-way trade is heavily tilted towards Malaysia. KualaLumpur's export bill stood at US$ 254.66 million against Dhaka's US $ 8.66million in 2003-04.
To reduce the gap, the official said Bangladesh would seek duty-freeaccess of its products including jute and jute goods, leather and leatherproducts, pharmaceuticals, frozen food, electric cable and tea.