Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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HomeOpinionCommentaryCan Bangladesh and Spain strengthen ties, lay ground for future cooperation?

Can Bangladesh and Spain strengthen ties, lay ground for future cooperation?

– Sheikh Hasina’s visit aims to boost bilateral relations, focus on trade, culture and people-to-people exchanges

By Ozair Islam

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to make an important official visit to Spain on July 21–22, which might strengthen current partnerships and determine the direction of future comprehensive Dhaka–Madrid relations. Given the strong and long-standing bilateral ties between Bangladesh and Spain, which have been shown throughout history, the visit may be considered a credible testimonial.

The visit may be vital to the developing commercial and economic diplomacy between Dhaka and Madrid as well as to cultural diplomacy, sports, collaboration on Rohingya refugee issues, and global north-south cooperation. Take a look at the example of Bangladeshis’ interest in Spain. Bangladesh is home to the greatest number of La Liga supporters worldwide, and this passion for Spain should keep ties lively.

Maintaining lively and active ties with Madrid is crucial for both Spain and Bangladesh, as Spain, one of the influential EU countries, is the second-largest recipient of goods exported from Bangladesh and the second-largest host of the Bangladeshi diaspora inside the European Union (EU). People-to-people interactions are already occurring regularly and smoothly. Bangladeshis have successfully integrated into Spanish society and have consistently boosted the country’s economy. Given that Sheikh Hasina’s visit will have a significant commercial focus, it may now further strengthen these developing connections. The visit will continue to fortify the areas in which both parties now have a strong and mature relationship while also looking into new areas of collaboration where there may be untapped potential.

The nations have piloted their mutual advancement as they marked the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the Kingdom of Spain’s establishment of diplomatic ties in 2022. However, there is a lot of room for growth in the historic upcoming visit’s bilateral relationship in many areas, which both sides are keen to investigate. There is a great deal of potential to strengthen political ties, fortify trade and economic ties, speed up high-quality Spanish investments in Bangladesh, accelerate discussions to sign a free trade agreement, guarantee Bangladesh that its products will have duty-free access to the developing Spanish market once Bangladesh graduates from the LDC in 2026, promote cultural exchange, people-to-people connectivity, sports cooperation, and tourism cooperation, and foster mutual trust and cooperation on the repatriation of Rohingya between the two friendly nations.

However, within the EU’s aid framework, Bangladesh still values Spain’s ongoing help for Bangladesh with regard to the Rohingya crisis. It gave the Rohingya children’s education 0.8 million euros. Bangladesh’s socioeconomic growth has been aided by closer cooperation between the Spanish Agency for International Growth Cooperation (AECID) and Bangladesh.

The growing commercial connection was shown in 2022 by the bilateral trade numbers, which showed imports of US$4.43 billion from Bangladesh to Spain and exports of US$ 214.02 million from Spain to Bangladesh. The visit should now contribute to an even greater rise in trade volume. The apparel business is one significant industry involved in this trading connection. Bangladesh’s goods are becoming more and more popular in Spain, mostly because they are more affordable and of higher quality than alternatives.

To fully use its goods, Bangladesh needs to make sure they are branded in Spanish markets. However, Bangladesh must diversify its export goods beyond clothing. Spain can produce a large number of electrical goods. The demand for some of the top-listed commodities, including machinery, cars, and more, is rising in Bangladesh. Exporting the excess of these items might result in significant foreign exchange earnings and help the nation weather the current economic downturn.

On the other side, Bangladesh’s major export commodities include labour, leather, apparel, and more. Spain may benefit economically from international commerce with Bangladesh to some degree. Spain may be able to find a way to lessen the current recession to some degree, and Bangladesh could discover a workable way to realize its goal of being a developed nation by 2041- that of becoming Smart Bangladesh.

With several fiscal and non-fiscal incentives available for mutual advantage, Spanish investment in Bangladesh’s special economic zones (SEZs) and high-tech parks may be a positive sign for mutually beneficial corporate collaboration. Spanish businesses are particularly interested in investing in and expanding their markets in Bangladesh, which might have a very good effect on the labour market. Furthermore, high-tech investments in fields where Spain is well-known internationally may be advantageous for both nations.

Both nations may evaluate the economic contributions made by the sixty thousand expats from Bangladesh to Spain, and they need to think about signing a bilateral agreement to allow qualified workers and professionals to migrate legally from Bangladesh to Spain. It would be advantageous for both Bangladesh and Spain to conclude a bilateral agreement on migration and mobility that adheres to the principles of the EU’s Migration and Asylum Pact. Additionally, Spain has the power to convince other EU development partners to give Bangladesh’s GSP+ trade privileges beyond 2029.

For Spanish firms, Bangladesh is a highly significant market. Numerous firms formed joint ventures with enterprises in Bangladesh and began operations. There are many chances for diversification in this trade cooperation, despite the fact that the RMG industry has been crucial to Bangladesh’s economic progress. In a wide range of industries, including highly productive agriculture, food processing, healthcare, infrastructure, and railroads, among others, Spanish businesses are global leaders. All of these areas might see more trade expansion. Furthermore, Bangladesh and Spain need to collaborate closely in the field of green energy. Among the five largest economies in Europe, Spain was the first to produce more than 50 percent of its power from renewable sources in 2023. In this area, particularly with regard to wind and solar power projects, Bangladesh and Spain have a great deal of space for cooperation.

Spain’s advantageous position makes it a major centre for marine commerce. In actuality, three of Europe’s top 10 ports are the Ports of Barcelona, Valencia, and Algeciras. Bangladesh’s advantageous position in the Bay of Bengal means that it has the potential to become into a significant hub for maritime transportation. FY2022–2023 saw a notable spike in the number of export containers arriving in Spain from Chattogram Port. Strengthening the cooperation between the seaports was discussed at a recent meeting between the Port of Barcelona and the embassy of Bangladesh in Spain.

Meanwhile, to continue strengthening their social ties, both nations must be committed to doing so. This may be done by creating fresh exchange programmes for young people and encouraging collaborations between universities, internships, and work experiences at Spanish businesses. Bangladesh’s population is youthful, intelligent, and vibrant, and Spain should always welcome them. However, Spanish speakers are welcome to settle in Bangladesh and take advantage of Bengali culture.

Spain values the economic development and labour force of the Indo-Pacific region and places a high priority on its prosperity, security, and stability. Bangladesh shares values in the Indo-Pacific Outlook that support the prosperity, security, and stability of the Indo-Pacific region, making it a significant player in the area given its distinct geopolitical position. In this same path, both countries may work together. It is envisaged that the visit would significantly advance the mutually shared causes. The visit might make the two countries’ bilateral collaboration into an excellent, all-encompassing strategic relationship and a global model of North-South cooperation.

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