As expected, Dhaka and Tokyo signed eight instruments for mutual cooperation on shared interests during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's four-day state visit to Japan at the invitation of her Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.
The deals were signed on agriculture, metro rail, industrial upgrade, ship recycling, customs matters, intellectual property, defence cooperation, ICT and cyber security cooperation by the concerned officials of the two friendly countries.
The instruments were later exchanged between Bangladesh and Japan in presence of the premiers of the two countries at the Prime Minister's Office.
The first instrument is a memorandum of cooperation (MoC) between the Ministry of Agriculture of Bangladesh and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan on agricultural cooperation for agricultural research and development and capacity building.
The second one is an agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters to ensure the proper application of the customs laws; to prevent, investigate and repress any customs offense, and to take cooperative efforts for simplification and harmonization of customs procedures.
The third is an MoC between the Ministry of Commerce of Bangladesh and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan on Industrial Upgrading Partnership Cooperation to establish a framework to jointly explore the possibilities of upgrading Bangladesh's industries through promoting cooperation between Bangladesh and Japan at both government and private levels with a view to supporting trade performance and product diversification for smooth graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status in 2026 and ongoing efforts to be a developed country by 2041 in line with "Vision 2041".
The fourth is a Memorandum on Defence Cooperation between the Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh and the Government of Japan to promote and strengthen cooperation in the fields of defence dialogue, exchange of visits, education, training, courses, seminars, workshops, technology transfer, and any other agreed activities pertinent thereto.
Fifth one is a Memorandum of Cooperation between the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan and the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges of Bangladesh on Cooperation in the field of Metro Rail, Cooperation on metro rail policy, laws, and regulation; technology for infrastructure, rolling stocks and systems; safety policy and management and disaster prevention measures.
The sixth one is Memorandum of Cooperation between the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan and the Ministry of Industries of Bangladesh in the field of Ship Recycling. The Bangladeshi side will make every effort to achieve required capabilities to accede and implement the Hong Kong International Convention (HKC) for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships by the end of 2023.
The Japanese side will make every effort to provide support for the development of Bangladesh in the field of ship recycling, including the establishment of a Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility, and to assist Bangladesh to meet the requirements in provisions of the HKC.
The seventh Memorandum of Cooperation between the Japan Patent Office and the Department of Patents, Designs, and Trademarks of the People's Republic of Bangladesh on Intellectual Property Cooperation on promotion of comprehension on the intellectual property right (IPR) systems and practices by exchanging information and practices, promoting public awareness on the importance of IPR, improvement of the IPR systems to enhance the development of industry and innovation.
The eighth one is MOC in the Field of Information and Communication Technology including Cyber Security between ICT Division, Ministry of Posts Telecommunications and Information Technology and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, Chairman (Senior Secretary) National Board of Revenue Abu Hena Md Rahmatul Muneem, Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Tapan Kanti Ghosh, Principal Staff Officer of the Armed Forces Division Lieutenant General Waker-uz-Zaman, Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary A B M Amin Ullah Nuri, Secretary of Ministry of Industry Zakia Sultana and State Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Zunaid Ahmed Palak signed the instruments respectively from Bangladesh side.
The signing of these instruments will go towards the realisation of ex Japanese Prime Minister, the late Shinzo Abe's vision for the BIG-B initiative centred around the Bay of Bengal, that he had proposed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's previous visit to Japan in 2014.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited the Japanese businesses to be the partner of Bangladesh's development and achievements as it is moving towards a prosperous future.
"Bangladesh is moving forward to a prosperous future. We want you all to be partner of our development and achievements," she said while inaugurating the Bangladesh Investment Summit at Hotel Westin in Tokyo.
She invited all to come to Bangladesh and explore the potentials of business and investment opportunities.
"Do invest in Bangladesh. We are confident that your investment will bring you huge success," she said.
Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan Nishimura Yasutoshi, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Chairman Ishiguro Norihiko and Chairman of Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Ken Kobayashi also spoke at the programme.
Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) and Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) jointly organised the summit titled "Trade and Investment Opportunities between Bangladesh and Japan.
Hasina expressed her happiness to see collaboration between Bangladeshi and Japanese companies.
"We expect more investments from Japanese investors especially in the Japanese Economic Zone in Araihazar," she said.
She said the number of non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) and people of Bangladeshi origin living in Japan are gradually increasing and they provide significant support to Bangladesh's economic activities through their remittances.
"I also urge them to develop more entrepreneurship, engage in business initiatives and joint ventures with their Japanese friends," she said.
PM Hasina said since Bangladesh is going to graduate from LDC status by 2026, it is working with Japan to make possible Economic Partnership Agreement to expand bilateral trade and investment.
She said that in Bangladesh's ever-expanding economy, opportunities have increased considerably in different sectors such as ICT, electronics, infrastructure, leather, textile, hospitality and tourism, heavy industry, chemical and fertilizer, and in SMEs.
"Our government is doing everything it can to facilitate smooth, easy and efficient ways of doing business. We are building 100 economic zones, Hi-tech and software parks to offer them for foreign investment, "she told the gathering.
She assured the Japanese investors that Bangladesh is ready for them, and that they will have great experience once there.
"All required agencies and framework to facilitate your business have been setup for convenience," she said.
She said that during her successive terms in the government she has been uplifting the socio-economic condition of the people as per the government's Vision 2021 and Vision 2041.
"Bangladesh, as a country, is now cited as a role model for development and sets examples in many fields ranging from poverty reduction, empowerment of women, digitalisation, food production, and in addressing climate change challenges."
She said the resilient people are now looking ahead with hope and optimism to emerge from LDC category to a developing country by 2026.
"We are determined in our journey towards a modern, developed and knowledge-based "Smart Bangladesh" by 2041," she said.
She mentioned that Bangladesh is a country of 170 million people which is itself a growing market. Its location in the heart of a bigger market of nearly three billion consumers, provides a huge attraction for business expansion.
"With our pragmatic policies and Vision, Bangladesh is guaranteed to emerge as a regional hub for investment, industrialization and exports to diverse destinations in the region and beyond, "she observed.
Sheikh Hasina said returns on investment in Bangladesh have been consistently high. In addition, business friendly fiscal and non-fiscal policies and incentives, stable democracy, prudent governance and leadership guarantees your investment will return good value.
"We can confidently assure you that Bangladesh ensures a solid future for global investors. We thus welcome all investors from world over, and Japanese investors in particular to see the opportunities for investment in Bangladesh."
She said that during the Covid-19 pandemic that has caused havoc worldwide, and severely impacted trade and investment, Bangladesh could tackle the crisis through effective measures and interventions.
"Our economy has shown strong resilience, maintained growth and is still sustaining the pressure from the volatile world financial situation and supply side constraints."
The premier mentioned that Bangladesh has maintained her economic growth and achieved 7.1 per cent GDP growth rate in fiscal year 2021-2022.
"Despite the Ukraine War, we are projecting 6.5 percent growth rate during the current fiscal year," she said.
In the event, 11 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between private companies from Bangladesh and Japan that include JCCI and FBCCI were exchanged in presence of the Bangladesh prime minister.
The ICT field
Bangladesh and Japan signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) to deepen partnership in different areas of ICT, including innovation and research, the digital economy, cyber security, and fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies to accelerate Bangladesh's journey towards building a knowledge-based Smart Bangladesh by 2041.
The MoC was signed between the governments of Bangladesh and Japan in presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Japanese Prime Minister's Office.
Under the agreements, both Bangladesh and Japan would foster deeper partnership in various areas of ICT, including cooperation in human resources development, innovation and research, digital literacy, the digital economy, cyber security, and promoting 4IR technologies, sharing the most recent developments in the ICT sector, according to a press release by the ICT Division.
State Minister of ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak and Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh IWAMA Kiminori put initials on the MoC on behalf of their respective sides.
The two countries will cooperate with each other to prevent and respond to the fast-growing cyber incidents and exchange of information on prevalent cyber security policies and best practices, and arrange dialogue to discuss current issues on this issue, the MoC said adding they would cooperate to build capacity of human resources and exchange experts.
State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak said the MoC signed today with the technologically advanced country, Japan, is a milestone development in the journey towards building a sustainable, knowledge-based and innovative Smart Bangladesh by 2041.
"We have reached an understanding to work together in various areas of ICT such as human resources development, innovation and research, the digital economy, digital literacy, cyber security, and the use of 4IR technologies," he said.
Palak said Japanese cooperation is very important in all the above-mentioned areas, especially for implementing Smart Bangladesh within the stipulated time.
Japan is Bangladesh's top development partner and it is helping the nation's advance in fields including infrastructure, manufacturing technology and human resources, he said pointing out that the government in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has already made a `Smart Bangladesh: ICT 2041 Master Plan.
The ICT State Minister said with the signing of the MoC, Bangladesh would now seek cooperation and suggestions from Japan to undertake and implement projects in line with the Smart Bangladesh: ICT 2041 Master Plan and about the use of 4IR technologies like AI, IoT, robotics, 3D printing that would shape several sectors of Bangladesh in the future health, education, energy, communication, commerce, economy, climate, infrastructure, natural resources, governance, financial transactions, security and entrepreneurship.
As per the MoC, Bangladesh and Japan would also work together in the international arena to promote implementation of the UNGGE reports of 2013, 2015 and 2021 by reaffirming the applicability of international law in cyberspace as well as by appropriately conducting Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) and extending capacity building.
Transfer of defence equipment
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Japanese counterpart Kishida Fumio have welcomed the initiation of negotiations on agreement concerning the "transfer of defense equipment and technology", recognizing the future potential.
They decided to "elevate" the bilateral relationship to a "strategic partnership" as a guiding principle to lead the two countries' journey into the next 50 years and beyond.
Both leaders shared the determination to enhance cooperation, specifically in three major areas - cooperation for peace and stability in the region and beyond, deepening economic cooperation for mutual benefits and regional prosperity, and expansion of cultural cooperation and people to people exchanges.
The two prime ministers welcomed recent frequent port calls in Chattogram by vessels of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the high-level mutual visits of the Japan Self-Defense Forces and Bangladesh Armed Forces.
In light of the memorandum of cooperation and exchanges formulated between the defense authorities from the two sides, they concurred to continue to promote security cooperation such as mutual visits by vessels and aircraft, unit-to-unit exchange, training programmes and goodwill exercises.
In addition, both PMs have decided to consider opening a defense wing in Tokyo and a national security wing in Dhaka in their respective embassies in the near future.
Furthermore, they agreed to enhance dialogue among the respective diplomatic and defense authorities in order to identify possible ways to strengthen the security cooperation.
Prime Minister Kishida explained Japan's efforts for fundamentally reinforcing its defense capabilities and strengthening diplomatic efforts, as illustrated in the new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Defense Buildup Program.
Prime Minister Hasina shared Bangladesh's plan and initiative for further modernizing its armed forces under the Forces Goal 2030.
Both prime ministers acknowledged the efforts by both countries to contribute to their respective regional security.
Prime Minister Hasina acknowledged the establishment of the Official Security Assistance by Japan, a new cooperation framework for the benefit of armed forces and other related organizations of like-minded countries for the purpose of deepening security cooperation, and looked forward to future cooperation under this framework.
The two prime ministers confirmed that, guided by the traditional and time-tested friendship since the independence of Bangladesh, the two countries have achieved significant progress in bilateral relations based on the "Comprehensive Partnership" established in 2014.
They noted that the two countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2022, as a manifestation of commitment and determination to contribute to enhancing the bilateral relationship based on common values and mutual interests.
Free and Open Indo-Pacific
Guided by the fundamental values and principles shared by the two countries, the two PMs reaffirmed their commitment to realizing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law, where the rights, freedoms and sovereignty of all countries, regardless of size or power, are protected by international law, rules and norms.
In particular, they affirmed that maritime order based on common values such as freedom of navigation is a cornerstone for stability and prosperity of the international community and that the use of the sea as global commons will contribute to the development of the blue economy.
Prime Minister Kishida explained that Japan, as the G7 Presidency, would like to demonstrate the G7's determination to uphold the free and open international order based on the rule of law and to enhance relations with partners in the international community beyond the G7. Prime Minister Hasina felicitated Japan on its G7 presidency.
Prime Minister Kishida also outlined a newly released plan for a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)", which will strengthen Japan's efforts to further promote the FOIP vision, with the four pillars of cooperation: "Principles for Peace and Rules for Prosperity," "Addressing Challenges in an Indo-Pacific Way," "Multi-layered Connectivity," and "Extending Efforts for Security and Safe Use of the Sea to the Air".
Prime Minister Hasina appreciated Japan's sustained efforts to contribute to securing regional and international peace, stability, and prosperity. She reiterated Bangladesh's principled position on a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific based on international law and shared prosperity for all.
Recognizing the importance of Bangladesh, which holds great economic potential and can be a bridge between huge markets, namely South Asia and Southeast Asia, the two prime ministers recognised that developing quality infrastructure will enhance regional connectivity and contribute to the development of Bangladesh and the region.
In this context, they stressed the importance of transparent and fair development finance to achieve sustainable development and highlighted the importance of adhering to international rules and standards, such as debt sustainability and transparency.
They also recognised the importance of economic security including strengthening the resilience of the supply chain, and the rules-based international economic order to counter challenges such as economic coercion.
Additional reporting by Fahad Ferdous.
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