The following New Year Message 2016 of Ambassador Md. Zulfiqur Rahman of Bangladesh in Seoul was contributed to The Korea Post for publication.?Ed.
Bangladesh Embassy in Seoul has ended 2015 with a high note at the backdrop of strengthening of bilateral relations between Korea and Bangladesh. We have seen year-long bilateral activities and exchanges in political, trade, cultural, and many other areas of mutual interest in both public and private capacities. Efforts that have been put continually by both Bangladesh and Korea to further our bilateral relations in all possible planes make me hopeful to see another year of fruitful cooperation in 2016.
I am glad to mention that Korea and Bangladesh have been trusted friends since the birth of Bangladesh as an independent nation in 1971. The two countries share common democratic values. Our bilateral relations are shaped up primarily by political goodwill, economic partnership, and commercial interests. The visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina to Korea in 2010 at the invitation of the then Korean President His Excellency Lee Myung-bak demonstrated the warmth that exists in our relationship. It has become a tradition that Bangladesh and Korea support each other in elections in different global forums.
Bangladesh and Korea maintain strong cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, development cooperation and technology transfer, employment and human resources development, education and research, cultural exchange, and defence cooperation. In 2015, Korea and Bangladesh inked a deal under which Korea will provide US$ 350 million soft loan to Bangladesh for various infrastructure development projects during 2015-17. This is the second biggest ODA (Official Development Assistance) deal for Korea. Bangladesh is also a partner country of Korea’s Employment Permit System (EPS). A good number of Bangladeshi workers, which we hope will increase further, are now working in Korean SMEs. People-to-people contacts have been increasing exponentially at all levels?in political, official, cultural, academic, private and other capacities. I foresee further strengthening of this trend and hope to see increased number of exchanges of high political and official visits in 2016.
Korea, although is the number seven foreign investor in Bangladesh, is yet to see the peak of its investments in Bangladesh. Bangladesh is strategically located for global trade and investment with easy access to international sea and air routes, and is endowed with abundant supply of the key factors of production like affordable and hardworking workforce, natural gas, sweet water, fertile land, favourable climate and social tranquillity. Goldman Sachs termed Bangladesh as one of the next 11 economies, and JP Morgan included Bangladesh in the ‘Frontier Five’ countries. At the regional level, besides integrating our trade and investment with SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), Bangladesh has been positioning itself as the regional hub of communication offering connectivity between South Asia and South-East Asia.
I firmly believe that, being at different value chain in manufacturing sector, our two economies can effectively complement each other and form a win-win combination. Bangladesh offers a large domestic market of about 159 million people. Scope for profitable investment in Bangladesh is enormous. Korean investors in Bangladesh enjoy the benefit of exporting their products at zero-tariff to EU countries, Canada, Australia, Norway, and, of course, to its domestic market. Sectors that the Korean investors should explore are High-end Readymade Garments; Textile and Home Textile; Active Pharmaceuticals Ingredient (API) Industry & Radio Pharmaceuticals Industry; ICT Products & ICT Based Service; Ship Building; Environment-friendly Ship-Breaking Industry; Agro-based industry/foods processing industry; Frozen Fish Industry; Jute Based Industry; Leather Industry; PPP-based large infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, township, power plants, ICT infrastructure, etc.) projects; Renewable Energy Sector; Tourism and Hospitality Sector; Polymer Making Industry; Hospital & Clinic; Auto-mobile; Electrical Home Appliances; Light Engineering Industry etc. I hope Korean investment will soon leap to a newer height this year.
Bangladesh?the country boasting the longest unbroken soft-sand sea beach at Cox’s Bazaar and the largest mangrove forest of the world, Sundarban, with its world renowned Royal Bengal Tiger?has a host of tourist treasures to offer to international tourists. Our government has declared 2016 as the Visit Bangladesh Year to open up our tourist treasures to foreigners. I heartily welcome our Korean friends to visit Bangladesh and enjoy its beauty. I also invite them in advance to visit Bangladesh pavilion that we are planning to host to showcase our tourism products at Korea World Travel Fair 2016 in COEX from 9-12 June 2016.
I hope the momentum gained in Korea-Bangladesh relations in 2015 will accelerate this year. I wish all citizens and residents of Korea a happy, prosperous and peaceful 2016.