Together India and Bangladesh can influence US to consider them as collaborative and competitive partners

by Dheeraj Tagra

05-October-2019  |  5 mins read

Rubana Huq, President, BGMEA
Dr. Rubana Huq, President, BGMEA addressing World Economic Forum (WEF) in Delhi

India and Bangladesh are close neighbours, but they are also treated as competitors when it comes to apparel manufacturing and export business. It is high time the textile industry from both countries look at it from a fresh perspective, as the top officials from both countries are now insisting on working together and growing collectively.

Dr. Rubana Huq, President, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), who is also Chairperson of Bangladesh’s leading apparel export house Mohammadi Group Ltd.,also shares same thought.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Delhi, Dr. Rubana Huq, said “Bangladesh and India can grow together. It need not be a competition between both countries, rather it could be coopetition – a collaborative competition. If we have inter-regional trade connectivity and support, then I think both countries can grow even faster.We can join hands and influence the US to consider us as collaborative and competitive partners.”

Her statement holds lot of relevance especially coming in the backdrop of the ongoing US-China trade war and India-Bangladesh mutual cooperation. While highlighting the latest developments regarding the US-China trade war, Dr. Rubana said  “Vietnam seems to be the most benefitted nation compared to Bangladesh and India.”

Among the top 30 products that China exports to US, 16 of them are exported by Bangladesh too. What’s noteworthy is that Bangladesh is actually plunging in those 16 products, while Vietnam is ascending.

It is worth noting that out of US total apparel import, Bangladesh has a share (value-wise) of 7.30 per cent, while India’s share is 5.38 per cent. China and Vietnam are far ahead with 30 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively.

Dr. Rubana further added “Bangladesh is hoping that business is going to grow, but so far it has reached only a certain level and is not up to the expectation.”

Piyush Goyal, India’s Union Railways and Commerce Minister; Wilbur Louis Ross, American investor and the US Secretary of Commerce;  Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman, Bharti Airtel; and Vikram Kirloskar, Vice Chairman, Toyota Kirloskar Motor were also panellists in the same session.

Bangladesh is also worried about the labour narrative as Rubana said, “Unfortunately, trade narrative also narrates around the labour narrative, so every time we are trying to tell US we are really good, we can do anything, we are the most sustainable and the most compliant apparel manufacturing hub of the world, we face the same question of ‘How is labour right now doing in Bangladesh, while we have done quite a lot. We hope that someday or very soon we will be looked upon favourably and we hope that we will see the light.”

It is pertinent to mention here that Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina is in India for Bangladesh Business Forum meeting.  Siddiqur Rahman, immediate Past President of BGMEA and few other apparel exporters are also part of this delegation. Both countries signed an MOU regarding Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports.

India does have a strong stand of cooperation and the spirit reiterated when Piyush Goyal said, while addressing the India-Bangladesh Business Forum, “India and Bangladesh are not competitors but collaborators in making both countries prosperous and ensuring a better future for their people.”

There are three Special Economic Zones in Bangladesh for Indian investors and he hoped that this will broaden the export base of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. Bilateral trade between both countries has grown steadily over the last decade. India’s exports to Bangladesh for the financial year 2018-19 (April-March) stood at US $ 9.21 billion and imports from Bangladesh for the same period stood at US $ 1.22 billion.

Bangladesh is also the biggest development partner of India today. India has extended 3 Lines of Credits (LOCs) to Bangladesh in last 8 years amounting to US $ 8 billion.

Indian Government has urged its industry to be a part of Bangladesh’s growth story with greater investment, especially in infrastructure, technology and energy. This will help create a more balanced trade between the two countries.

One hopes that both countries will move forward by supporting each other and the textile and apparel trade of the duo will grow collectively.

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