Strengthening bilateral economic cooperation with Iran

Dhaka,  Sun,  04 December 2016
Published : 23 Nov 2016, 20:59:17 | Updated : 23 Nov 2016, 21:07:36

Strengthening bilateral economic cooperation with Iran

Nabil Azam Dewan
Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and the P+1 countries (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany; along with the European Union) last year, the world has seen light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, most countries are eager to exploit the untapped resources and opportunities that Iran has to offer - after three decades of US trade sanctions. Despite the anti-Iranian rhetoric launched from Israel and an influential segment of US political establishment, rest of the international community (like EU, India, Japan, South Korea) has already taken steps to establish formal banking channels and invest in diverse sectors of Iran's post-sanction economy. This would likely create an enormous impact on the regional economic trends of Middle East and Central Asia.

The aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal has presented  Bangladesh with an opportunity for exploring new frontiers of its economic ties with Tehran. It should immediately conduct a feasibility study for the purpose of executing new trade deals, increasing bilateral investments and sharing each other's resources to the point of creating a long-term economic partnership.

Bangladesh and Iran share a timeline of economic cooperation. During 2005-2013, Dhaka-Tehran trade increased up to 36 per cent and Bangladeshi exports to Iran increased from $38.09 million to $75.41 million - an enormous increase of 98 per cent within eight years. In 2013, Iran-Bangladesh Joint Economic Commission decided to multiply the bilateral trade volume two or three times. Recently, the president of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Mines, Industries and Agriculture (ICCMIA) requested both the Bangladesh government and the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) to create an "Iran-Bangladesh Trade Committee" in order to enhance trade cooperation between the two countries. A top-level FBCCI delegation is likely to visit Tehran for the necessary discussions on reducing both countries' trade barriers and unlocking bilateral business opportunities. Bangladesh's business community aspires to exploit a speedy growth of the Iranian economy which is likely to grow to more than $100 billion as sanctions have ended. If both countries find better ways to work together, this will mark an era of economic excellence and scientific cooperation as Iran has excelled and innovated noticeably in fields such as ICT, aviation, automobiles, petrochemicals, agriculture and advanced medicine - bearing the mark of a self-reliant and independent country. 

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Bangladesh  last year and talked with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali. Iran's agenda included ways to reinstate its jute imports from Bangladesh. Finance Minister A.M. Abdul Muhith is expected to visit Tehran to explore possibilities of growing bilateral economic ties. 

Iran's ambassador to Bangladesh has recently said that Tehran is keen to import ready-made garments (RMG) and agricultural goods from Dhaka. On the other hand, Bangladesh, with its huge millennial population, desires to export human resources to Iran.

Iran has spoken of the construction of a gas pipeline, not only to Pakistan, but also to Bangladesh. Last year, Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources was invited to Tehran to discuss the possibilities of extending the pipeline to Dhaka. The Iranian government has also confirmed that it is ready to offer Bangladesh a special rate on crude oil imports. Meanwhile, Dhaka wants Tehran to help increase the capacity of the Eastern Refinery which was constructed with assistance from Iran. 

While Bangladesh has a majority of Sunni Muslims in sharp contrast to Iran's overwhelmingly Shia Muslim majority, the sectarian difference has not prevented the two countries from finding every possible means of strengthening what the Iranians describe as "Islamic cooperation". Tehran's cultural presence in Dhaka is also evident - Iranian films and serials are often screened on state-run BTV and plenty of translated Iranian (Persian) novels are available in Bangladesh.

nabil.dewan@gmail.com

 
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