The Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting between Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is scheduled to take place in the UAE's capital city of Abu Dhabi on February 5-6, after a long gap of nine years.
The two-day meeting is going to be held at a time when the outflow of migrant workers from Bangladesh to the UAE was at its lowest level.
The government is looking to revive the outflow of workers to the second biggest market for the country during the high-level meeting, officials said.
State Minister for Finance M A Mannan is expected to lead the Bangladesh delegation to the meeting while UAE's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Qarqash would lead their side.
Between 1976 and 2017, a total of more than 2.36 million Bangladeshi workers found employment in the Gulf state, which is 20.87 per cent of the total workers sent abroad from Bangladesh in last four decades.
The flow, however, has dipped to a drastically low level since 2013 when the UAE halted recruitment from Bangladesh, allegedly for malpractices in the labour recruitment process.
According to official figures, while more than 215,000 Bangladeshi workers went to UAE for employment back in 2012, it dropped to merely around 14,000 in 2013.
Although the UAE agreed in May last year to lift the ban, insiders observed that in reality the restriction was still in place as only 4,135 Bangladeshi workers went to the UAE in 2017.
In this context, the upcoming JEC meeting is set to focus on reviving the employment market for Bangladeshi workers in the UAE, officials at the Economic Relations Division told the FE.
"The UAE government is currently developing a new recruitment mechanism for Bangladeshi labourers, aimed at reducing illegal recruitment," said Dr. Nurul Islam of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).
"Hopefully, there would be some positive developments in this regard during the JEC meeting," he added.
Apart from the resumption of manpower export, the meeting would also focus on exploring the potential export market for Bangladeshi products in the UAE.
Bangladesh's export to the UAE actually witnessed fall in the last fiscal year (2016-17) when the country exported goods and services worth US$ 380.1 million -- down from $ 425.91 million in 2015-16.
Insiders, however, observed that there is a sizeable untapped market for a number of Bangladeshi products in the UAE.
"For example, there is a huge potential for Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals in the UAE market," said a high official at the Ministry of Commerce.
"In addition, there are scopes for increasing export of leather goods, jute items, frozen food and agro-based products to the UAE," he added.
In addition to exports, Bangladesh would also seek UAE investment in a number of areas, especially in the country's tourism and hospitality sector.
A major entry point in the Middle East for the global travelers, the UAE and particularly its iconic city of Dubai, has turned itself into a major tourist attraction in recent years.
According to Euromonitor International, Dubai was the most visited city in the Middle East and also the sixth most visited city in the world in 2017. The city is also home to some of the world's most state-of-the-art hotels.
"In this context, we think that there are huge scopes for UAE investment in Bangladesh's tourism and hospitality sector," ERD additional secretary Mohammad Shamsul Alam said.
"We would ask them to set up a separate tourism zone at Cox's Bazar," he added.