The South Asian nation of Bangladesh is actively working to strengthen its relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The country is preparing to hold ministerial-level talks with the GCC, according to the Bangladeshi envoy to Riyadh, as reported by Arab News on Saturday.
Bangladesh and the GCC — an intergovernmental economic union of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, headquartered in Riyadh — signed a memorandum establishing a framework for cooperation in November last year.
The deal was reached on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue regional security conference in Bahrain by Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen and former GCC secretary general Dr. Nayem Falah Al-Hajraf.
“We have been trying to boost cooperation with GCC. In this context, we signed an MoU with the GCC in November. This MoU has a baseline on the ways to move forward,” Bangladeshi Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Javed Patwary told Arab News.
To move the cooperation forward, the envoy met this week the GCC’s new chief, Jasem Al-Budaiwi, who took office earlier this year. The two discussed holding a ministerial-level meeting in September.
“There will be a ministerial meeting which will be led by our foreign minister and the GCC secretary general. I proposed to organize the meeting during the UNGA in September at New York as a sideline meeting,” Patwary said.
Before the meeting, the ambassador is expecting consultations with GCC and Bangladeshi officials to prepare a joint action plan.
“Either it could take place in Dhaka or Riyadh, but there are time constraints since the UNGA will take place in September. In that case, this official-level meeting may also take place virtually. We offered all the options to GCC,” he said.
“Based on that, we will proceed with future works.”
Bangladesh has been pursuing closer ties with Gulf countries to tap into cooperation focusing on traditional sectors such as energy and food security, but also an emerging industry — culture.
“We found some priority areas to boost cooperation, like trade, commerce, energy security, agriculture, food security, climate change, etc. Apart from that, there is another important area for boosting cooperation, which is culture. All the GCC members are moving fast with cultural developments,” Patwary said.
“Increasing investment from both sides is another big area of opportunity. There can be mutual commodity exchange, and we are focusing on increasing our trade with GCC nations. We hope that cooperation in all these areas will be enhanced.”
As it pursues closer GCC links, Bangladesh is trying to tighten its commercial ties with Saudi Arabia in particular. Opportunities have been on the rise since March, when a delegation led by Saudi Commerce Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi visited Dhaka.
With several investment agreements signed during the visit, Saudi Arabia entered Bangladesh’s energy, seaport and agriculture industries, while the two nations’ chambers of commerce established a joint council to navigate bilateral business ties.
Saudi Ambassador to Bangladesh Essa Al-Duhailan told Arab News last month that a delegation of top Bangladeshi business leaders was expected to visit the Kingdom in coming weeks.