Dubai: Bangladeshi Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina's presence in the UAE next week to deliver a keynote address at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, is expected to give business relations between the two countries a shot in the arm.
"Shaikh Hasina's presence in Abu Dhabi from January 16 will help boost business and investment relations between Bangladesh and the UAE," Nazmul Quaunine, Bangladesh Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News in an interview.
Over half a million Bangladeshi expatriates working in the UAE, growing investment and rapid development of air transportation are major components of bilateral relations.
"The visit is a major event in our relations. We have worked for almost two years to finalise two agreements on avoidance of double taxation and promotion and protection of investments," Quaunine said.
"The signing of these two agreements during the prime minister's visit is a significant event. This will add value to the existing framework to improve business and investment relations."
For the first time, a 30-member top-level delegation from the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) will accompany Shaikh Hasina and have interactive sessions with leading UAE businessmen.
At the summit, Shaikh Hasina, who has just completed two years of her second five-year term, is expected to highlight Bangladesh's climate concerns and join the UAE's clean energy campaign.
A reception will be hosted at the Bangladesh School Auditorium at Abu Dhabi in her honour.
Shaikh Hasina's visit comes nearly five years after former Bangladeshi prime minister Khaleda Zia's state visit and about 27 years after then UAE President Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan paid a 10-day state visit to Bangladesh in 1984.
Shaikh Hasina will meet the UAE's labour minister, the minister for foreign trade and other key dignitaries to discuss issues including labour, trade and investment. Besides signing the two agreements, a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed between the Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the FBCCI.
The present volume of trade is not significant, but this is expected to rise in coming years, Quaunine said.
In 2009-10, UAE-Bangladesh trade fell 19.61 per cent to $506.72 million from $606.13 million in 2008-09. Exports from Bangladesh to the UAE in 2009-10, however, rose 14.87 per cent to $65.82 million from $56.03 million in the previous fiscal.
Exports from the UAE to Bangladesh were valued at $550.10 million in 2009-10. The UAE exported mainly crude oil and fertiliser while Bangladesh exported readymade garments, dry foods and consumables.
Quaunine said UAE investment in Bangladesh has reached about $2.5 billion and is likely to increase. Telecoms, ceramics and infrastructure are the preferred areas of investment.
A significant number of Bangladeshis have been working in the UAE in the last few years.
"Our blue and white collar workers are contributing immensely to the economies of both countries. The UAE is now home to over half a million Bangladeshis," Quaunine said.
Remittances from non-resident Bangladeshis account for a major portion of Bangladesh's foreign exchange reserves.
In 2009-10, remittances from the UAE to Bangladesh stood at $1.89 billion, an increase of 7.71 per cent from $1.75 billion in 2008-09.
"Our relations with the UAE have grown in depth and dimension over the year in trade, economic, investment, air services, cargo services and so on. Members of the Bangladesh community are engaged in business and other professional activities.
"Hence it is time to encourage and empower the community in a way that will raise the image of our community," Quaunine said.