The news that Japan's business presence in Bangladesh would increase in the coming years is welcome from various perspectives. It came out after a meeting of the two countries' foreign ministers. At a time when Bangladesh's growth paradigm is being noticed and praised by international observers, such a positive vibe can only call attention to the trend. In Japan's case it is more important that this third largest economy of the world and Bangladesh's single largest donor country regards Bangladesh in a positive light. While the two foreign ministers discussed a whole range of issues including more trade and investment, the message that more Japanese companies would consider Bangladesh as their destination is indeed comforting. Any addition to the already existing number of 270 Japanese companies in Bangladesh would definitely add more jobs here. If job-creation is the first consideration, a whole range of related economic issues would also be involved. Ten years back, the number of Japanese companies was only 82 and the progress seems quite commendable.
Japan as an Asian powerhouse has always been in the Bengali mind. The great poet Tagore eulogised Japanese achievements as early as 1904. Japan had always supported the subcontinent's cause of freedom. When Bangladesh won its war of independence, Japan was among the first countries to recognise it. And as the new nation started its journey of free existence, Japan was there with all help and assistance and soon became a development partner par excellence. Its aid has been less conditional than that of others. Besides, Japan has been the guiding force behind the creation of the Asian Development Bank, which is now an important pillar of Bangladesh's progress. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency or JICA has become part of the Bangladesh advancement narrative. It is said that international trade is the life blood of the Japanese economy. Bangladesh-Japan trade has grown over the years since establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972. And the trend of this trade has traditionally been more import than export to Japan. Not that Bangladesh has a deficit with Japan only. Its growing economy has not yet reached the stage where it can sit atop a secure export base without the need to import much. In fact in May 2019, the country's trade deficit stood at Taka 152 billion. So given the hunger for Japanese cars, among other things, in the burgeoning middle class in Bangladesh, it will be a continuous trade deficit with Japan for the foreseeable future. However, efforts have been made to reduce the rate and more and more Bangladeshi goods are entering the Japanese market, RMG topping the list of export items.
Apart from Japan, many countries have a huge presence here -- the British not least because of colonial era ties, the Americans and the Chinese, both for their expendable money and the Indians for geographic and cultural proximity. The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank are working in this country. Major European nations like Germany, France, Spain, Sweden and a host of others have their presence, through development funds, state-owned entities, consultants and ordinary citizens. Italian firms have also been working in Bangladesh. The Russian Federation is present in our power sector from day one. All these go to prove Bangladesh's acceptance as a global destination. The Bangladesh and Japanese foreign ministers in their latest meeting promised to continue with high-level meetings on a regular basis. Such interactive contacts should be a standing feature with all other countries. Let all people come here for all the various mutually advantageous engagements, and increasingly.