China keen to be a partner in building deep seaport, The Daily Star, 4 October 2016

China is open to partnering with a third country for building Bangladesh’s first deep seaport.

“We want to be a partner wherever the deep seaport is build,” said Chinese Ambassador in Bangladesh Ma Mingqiang while speaking at a seminar yesterday ahead of the Chinese president’s visit to Dhaka this month.

He said Sonadia could be the most ideal place for the port as 82 percent of Bangladesh’s exports and imports are done through Chittagong port.

“We will also be glad to be the partner of Bangladesh in any big project that benefits Bangladesh,” said the Chinese envoy while addressing the Bangladesh-China Relations: Opportunities and Challenges seminar arranged by Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) at The Westin.

In March, the Chinese envoy categorically told a programme that China was willing to cooperate with other countries in helping Bangladesh build its first deep seaport at any location.

“We are certainly here to cooperate. Of course, this cooperation is open, and it’s not exclusive. We’re willing to cooperate with any country.”

Presided over by BEI President Farooq Sobhan, the programme was addressed by Prime Minister’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam and Chairman of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) Munshi Faiz Ahmad.

Addressing the seminar, Ambassador Ma Mingqiang said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s forthcoming Dhaka visit will take Bangladesh-China relations to a new height.

“I can assure you that there’ll be a number of documents to be signed. You’ll see the relations will really be upgraded to new height,” he said.

The Chinese envoy said China wants to be a partner of Bangladesh in blue economy development through cooperation in the areas of capacity building, exploring sea resources and other mutually agreed ways.

Responding to a question about the recent tension between India and Pakistan, the Chinese ambassador said China maintains “strategic relations” with India, and China of course maintains very good relations with Pakistan, as well.

“Both the countries are China’s partners and China wants to see these countries solve their issues themselves,” he said, adding, “China always favours settlement of issues through “consultations and diplomacy” instead of through arms and China will not take any side.”

Gowher in his speech said Bangladesh’s relationship with China was time tested and reliable and it had reached a new level in recent times.

He said the depth and breadth of the traditional friendship and the long-standing relations and engagements between China and Bangladesh were enormous, and China responded whenever Bangladesh sought any support.

State Minister Shahriar Alam recalled Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s visits to China in 1952 and 1957 and his fond reminiscences of his experiences in China and its wonderful people.

He said China has become Bangladesh’s biggest source of imports since 2007. In 2015-16, two-way trade between the two countries crossed $9 billion with $8.22 billion imports from China.

The state minister said a number of measures are being considered by the two countries to narrow the trade gap. “China has proposed a Free Trade Area (FTA) with Bangladesh and we are preparing for doing a feasibility study on this.”

Farooq Sobhan talked about various aspects of the relationship of the two countries and hoped that there would be a “dramatic transformation” in investment and bilateral cooperation in the coming days.

He said a substantial investment would flow into Bangladesh from China following the establishment of two dedicated exclusive economic zones for Chinese investors. “We see enormous potential.”

Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial meeting at the foreign ministry discussed ways to make the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping a success.

“We cannot tell you right now when he [Xi] will arrive here and when he will leave Dhaka for Goa [India],” an official said.

However, meeting sources indicated that the visit might be on October 13.