Fifty years of Japan-Bangladesh relations: development, assistance and economic ties

February 10 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Japan. Despite the huge differences in economic positions, the strong will to strengthen the existing good relations and close cooperation between the governments and peoples of the two Asian countries was reflected in the various arrangements made for the celebration of the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Japan’s friendly state relations with Bangladesh began with the recognition of Bangladesh on February 10, 1972, but they began almost a hundred years ago. Japan has had very good relations with the Bengalis since before the formation of independent Bangladesh. At one time, many people from this part of India traveled to Japan for technical training and this trend continues today.

Japan is Bangladesh’s largest export market in Asia. Over the past 10 years, export figures have doubled to $1.2 billion. The main export products are textiles, ready-made garments and leather products. These sectors will continue to be important, and the key is to establish the brand image by increasing productivity and ensuring better quality.

Even during the Bangladesh Liberation War, Japan’s friendly attitude played a very useful role. To help Bangladesh, Japanese students stood with Bangladesh at that time, saving their tiffin money. And shortly after independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman paid a fruitful visit to Japan to maintain this beautiful relationship in 1973 which laid a solid foundation for bilateral relations between the two countries. Subsequently, during the tenure of different governments, the government of Bangladesh maintained good relations with Japan. Even after independence, every head of government who came to power in Bangladesh visited Japan.

Bangladesh Bank (Central Bank of Bangladesh) has already introduced a number of Tk 50 silver commemorative coins marking half a century of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Japan, and is selling each coin for Tk 5,000.

The Japanese Embassy in Dhaka has released a commemorative photo book of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic visit to Japan on the auspicious occasion of the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Currently, investment by Japanese companies in Bangladesh is increasing. Apart from various types of investments, Bangladesh also receives significant direct aid from the Japanese government. Just as various products are imported from Japan, the export of Bangladeshi products to Japan has also increased. An analysis of economy and trade shows that this kind of relationship between Bangladesh and Japan has reached a new level of investment and trade.

Although economic cooperation and bilateral trade interests predominate in the modern stage of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the foundations of the current relationship are deeply rooted. Among OECD member countries, industrialized Japan was the first to recognize Bangladesh.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh visited Japan in 2019. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived in Japan on May 28 on the first leg of his 12-day tour of Japan, Saudi Arabia and Finland. The purpose of his visit to Japan was to join the summit of Future Asia, but in reality it was a bilateral tour. During this visit, Japan agreed to invest heavily in Bangladesh’s communication and power sectors. Among these, Bangladesh has signed agreements with Japan for several other projects including Matarbari and Seaport Development Project and Dhaka Rapid Transit Line 1. Work on several projects has already begun. Among them is the construction of a 1,200 MW energy project in the Cox’s Bazar region with the help of Japan. In addition to these, there are indications that a number of larger investments have been made by Japan.

As a potential hub of the regional economy, the Port of Matarbari would connect South Asia and Southeast Asia. In other words, it could reshape Bangladesh as a trading nation deeply integrated into interregional and global value chains.

While in 2008 and then in 2010, around 70 and 83 Japanese companies were operating in different types of business and trade in Bangladesh respectively, this number has increased at a rapid pace until 2021. At present, around 321 Japanese companies are working in Bangladesh.

The famous Japanese motorcycle brand Honda has set up a factory in Bangladesh. At the same time, another factory of the Japanese brand Yamaha is being built by the ACI group in collaboration with Yamaha Corporation.

On the other hand, Japan Tobacco, a domestic tobacco producer, bought Akij Group, a very old tobacco company in Bangladesh. In this tobacco project, Japan Tobacco has invested approximately $147.6 million in Bangladesh. In addition, Nippon Ispat, a steel producer, is setting up a joint venture with McDonald’s Steel Building Products, a local company. According to data from Japan, at the end of 2018, various Japanese companies invested around 1.75 billion yen in Bangladesh.

Just as the Japanese have an important role to play in the development of Thailand and Malaysia, it is hoped that the Japanese will continue to be interested in investing in Bangladesh. This investment and trade from Japan and Bangladesh is not just one-way. According to the data, in 2018, Bangladesh exported goods worth about $117 million to Japan, about 23 percent more than the previous year. On the other hand, around $187 million of goods were imported into Bangladesh from Japan at the same time.

Since its independence, Bangladesh has become the largest recipient of official development assistance (ODA) from Japan. The construction of the second bridges of Kanchpur, Meghna and Gumti and the rehabilitation of the existing bridge project are excellent examples of Japanese ODA. These bridges have greatly reduced the travel time between Dhaka and Chattogram.

Bangladesh earns a large amount of foreign exchange by exporting labor. However, in this respect, labor exports from Bangladesh to Japan are quite disappointing. The number of Bangladeshis in Japan is very low where many people from other countries constantly travel to Japan. However, one of the main reasons is the lack of skilled workers. Most people in Japan who go to work from different countries have a lot of skills in this particular job. Since then, the Bangladeshi workforce has yet to acquire such skills. Learning Japanese is also very difficult for Bengalis.

According to the media report, in the Japanese fiscal year 2020, the Japanese government provided 373.2 billion yen ($3.423 billion) to Bangladesh in the form of project loans and financial assistance for countermeasures. against covid-19. This amount means that Bangladesh has become the biggest beneficiary, overtaking India, on a single Japanese fiscal year basis for the first time in the history of the yen loan.

The Japanese government has decided to provide 9 million dollars to help WFP and IOM in their support operations in Bangladesh. Among the assistance, about $4.55 million will be provided to WFP to develop agricultural infrastructure, strengthen business links with rural farmers and improve the food value chain in Cox’s Bazar, Ishwardi and Patuakahali districts.

The Government of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have contributed to the development of Bangladesh through loans, grants and the dispatch of Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) in various fields. , including education, health, water/sanitation, and agriculture.

Japan is Bangladesh’s largest export market in Asia. Over the past 10 years, export figures have doubled to $1.2 billion. The main export products are textiles, ready-made garments and leather products. These sectors will continue to be important, and the key is to establish the brand image by increasing productivity and ensuring better quality.

Pharmaceuticals, agricultural and fishery products and the food industry have high potential. The marvelous mangoes from Bangladesh have yet to enter the Japanese market. Once exported, mangoes and lychees from Bangladesh will undoubtedly be popular with Japanese consumers. Japan and Bangladesh can work together in the areas of resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis, expanding the blue economy, countering terrorism and other issues. in Bhasan Char. On February 8, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appealed for Japan’s support for a speedy and sustainable repatriation of forcibly displaced Rohingya to their homeland Myanmar, as Dhaka and Tokyo share common views on the resolution of the crisis. One day, bilateral cooperation would turn into bilateral strategic ties. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has previously said that the solid foundation of bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Japan is set to change from “comprehensive partnership” to “strategic partnership” in the near future.

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