Your Excellency Mr. Tofail Ahmed, MP and Honorable Minister for Commerce,
Dear M. Kazi Islam Executive Chairman of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority,
Dear Mr Maksud, President of the France-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
Dear François Petit, Economic Counsellor at the French Embassy and his Deputy Somen Dutta,
Dear members of the Executive Committee, and of the CCIFB itself,
Dear Executive Director and all the dedicated team of the CCIFB,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
1 – Allow me first to express my warmest thanks to the Honorable Minister of Commerce, HE Mr. Tofail Ahmed for his presence with us tonight at this CCIFB Business networking event. Your participation demonstrates the importance of our bilateral relationship for the Government of Bangladesh, I wish to stress that we value it highly from the French Government side.
2 – I would also like to stress my sincere appreciation and deepest thanks to the President of the Chamber, dear Mr Maksud, to your team and the Members of the Executive Committee of the CCIFB, for the energy and involvement all of you have dedicated to the fruitful realization of various events and in particular, in organizing this business network event 2018.
3 – The relationship between our 2 countries is friendly and very cordial, inscribed in a tradition of political support, since 1971 itself (i.a. André Malraux) and broadly based on technical cooperation and economic support.
We have been extending heartfelt support to your country in multilateral fora in order to help in mobilizing the international community to assist Bangladesh in facing the huge inflow of Rohingya refugees. Bravo, we commend your Government for its warm hospitality to the Rohingyas who had been subjected to quasi-ethnic and religious cleansing. France remains in full support as a true friend and partner. We also cooperate on climate change issues, work together in Peace Keeping Operations and cooperate on various issues of concern, including terrorism.
4- Let me turn to economic and commercial issues. I have to acknowledge that France has been experiencing a substantial, even “huge”, trade deficit with Bangladesh over the years. Last year, this deficit amounted to 2,2Mds Euros in favor of Bangladesh, the French exports represented roughly 10% of this amount. We need the mobilization of all the participants tonight, and the help of all of you to reduce this gap which is not sustainable in the long term.
Kindly allow me, Honorable Minister, to seek your valuable advice in order to help redress this imbalance, we would all greatly appreciate it if you could share your views with us.
4 – As my colleagues, I wish to applaud the continuous support of your Ministry and its involvement in trying to remove some of the various tariff and non-tariff barriers to which foreign companies are confronted in Bangladesh. Allow me to note that despite some progress, some core issues do indeed remain after numerous rounds of discussions within the framework of the EU BD Business Climate Dialogue. Allow me to mention 3 of them :
> the core problem regarding the importation of medicines is still a pending issue for our Pharmaceutical Groups
> The repatriation of capital has been a major concern for the foreign companies in Bangladesh, including the French ones
> In spite of your efforts, Bangladesh has notched down by one rank in the latest Doing Business Report from the World Bank. In order to attract more Foreign direct Investment we can only encourage further steps be taken in order to modify perceptions of the situation and consolidate the required confidence.
5/ We need to intensify our exchanges and dialogue.
I am given to understand that the idea of a visit to France by a Bangladeshi Business Delegation that you would lead, Mr. Minister, has been suggested last April. We would warmly welcome such a delegation.
On the other hand, following the recent meeting between the Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the President of the French Republic, in Paris on the 12th of December,we are currently working on further strengthening our bilateral relations in their various dimensions, including the economic one. The suggestion was also made of organizing a MEDEF-led Business delegation visit to Dacca and a Joint Business Dialogue in connection, allowing for direct exchanges between the private sector, between officials, and between officials and the private sector representatives.
We can all do our share in order to develop our economic and trade cooperation. Thank you to all of you for being here tonight for this networking event organized by the CCIFB, I wish you all full success.