Chinese FM to visit Dhaka Dec 27-29

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is scheduled for December 27-29 to visit Bangladesh aiming at boosting bilateral cooperation in trade, development and security aspects, sources in the foreign ministry said. Wang Yi is expected to evaluate the progress and hurdles in implementing two memorandums and an agreement the two countries inked during the visit of the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, to China in June, a foreign ministry official said. Dhaka is likely to seek enhanced duty-free quota from the existing 60 per cent to 100 per cent in Chinese market as the trade has been heavily tilted towards China. The foreign ministry held an inter-ministerial meeting on Sunday to have an overview over the entire bilateral issues centring major areas including security and development, the sources said. ‘We are yet to know the priorities from our counterpart, but discussed major bilateral issues, our interests and priorities at the meeting ahead of the tour of Chinese minister,’ a senior official at the ministry told New Age. He said that China had recently showed keen interests to extend cooperation in modernising navy equipment.

The official, however, declined to elaborate, saying that the ‘issue is sensitive, and the defence ministry is dealing with the matter.’ Bangladesh exported goods of $458.12 million to China in 2012-2013 fiscal against imports of $6.30 billion. Bangladesh has been enjoying zero-duty facility for 4,800 items in Chinese market since July 2010 which accounts for 60 per cent of China’s tariff lines. Two memorandums of understanding signed between the two countries during Hasina’s visit were on cooperation in the establishment of Chinese economic and industrial zone in Bangladesh and the construction of a multi-lane road tunnel under the river Karnaphuli.

The government has, meanwhile, identified a vast area at Mirsarai in Chittagong as a potential site for the Chinese economic zone, though required lands for the project is to be purchased. No tangible progress has so far been made in feasibility study for the tunnel project, the sources said. The joint venture agreement signed between China National Machinery Import & Export Corporation and North-West Power Generation Company Limited, Bangladesh during Hasina’s visit for establishing a 1320MW coal-based ultra super critical power plant at Kalapara upazilla in Patuakhali also lacks any progress. Dhaka sought above $9 billion as Chinese loan for 18 projects in the two-day China-Bangladesh Economic Commission meeting held in Beijing in June 2013. ‘We will pursue concessional loans to implement nine large projects during the bilateral meeting to be led by two foreign ministers, scheduled for  December 28 at the foreign ministry,’ another foreign ministry official said.

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