The Financial Express

Bangladesh courting Oman to access GCC market

Dr AK Abdul Momen Dr AK Abdul Momen

Bangladesh has requested Oman to persuade the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for providing duty-free and quota-free market access to Bangladeshi products, foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The GCC is the coalition of six Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman.

"As a GCC member, Oman applies 5 per cent customs duty for rest of the world including Bangladesh. Although Oman individually can't offer any tariff preference to Bangladesh, Oman can pursue GCC for DFQF (duty-free and quota-free) access of some of our products to Oman and GCC market as well," said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, while addressing a virtual event on Monday evening.

The Bangladesh embassy in Muscat organised the webinar, titled 'Bangladesh-Oman Bilateral Trade & Investment: Challenges and Opportun-ities'.

Dr Momen said the two countries could explore the possibility of either a Preferential Trade Agreement or Free Trade Agreement to maximise the available synergies in trade for mutual benefits.

The minister also proposed forming a 'Bangladesh-Oman Business Forum' to explore and strengthen business cooperation between the two countries.

Over the last decade, bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Oman has grown but at a low pace, and there is much more scope to expand and diversify the bilateral trade items, he told the virtual event.

Dr Momen also suggested that the frequent exchange of trade delegations at official and private levels should be encouraged to expand areas of trade and strengthen bilateral trade.

Both Bangladesh and Oman can participate in trade fairs held in each other's capitals on a regular basis to familiarise and popularise products, he said.

Urging Oman entrepreneurs to invest in Bangladesh, the foreign minister said Bangladesh had prepared the ground for foreign investment with investment-friendly policies.

"It [Bangladesh] has put investment regulatory laws in place like Private Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act-1980, which ensures legal protection and non-discriminatory treatment for foreign investors," said the minister.

"Part of its liberal policy regime, Bangladesh offers various incentives like tax holiday, tax exemption, and waiver of import duties, capital repatriation, ease of profit, investment opportunities in stock-market for foreigners, and other preferential benefits."

Dr Momen mentioned that the government had taken active steps to improve the business climate by enhancing connectivity through infrastructure build-up, and improve the ranking of Ease of Doing Business and One-stop Service for foreign investors.

"The government has taken initiatives to establish 100 economic zones in addition to the existing exclusive economic zones," the minister told the event.

"Part of its digitalisation process, several high-tech parks for IT industries are underway. It may be noted that over 800 IT companies are now thriving in the country with an exposure to the international market."

Bangladesh is ready to offer an exclusive economic zone and hi-tech parks to Oman's investors, he added.

"Oman can invest in hotel, residence and shopping complex building projects in the hi-tech parks located across the country. Ready lands are available in Dhaka and Sylhet for investment," the minister noted.

"Bangladesh is willing to provide dedicated land and space for Omani investors in the ICT sector in Bangladesh."

Dr Momen also pointed out that Oman could also explore the opportunity to invest in the blue economy sector of Bangladesh.

"Bangladesh's blue economy presents a plethora of untapped opportunities, e.g., deep sea fishing, maritime transport, energy, tourism, etc," he said.

"We need collaboration with friendly countries, especially for access to quality technologies. In this context, Oman's investors may consider investing in maritime sector with their technological advancement for our mutual benefits."

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