Hassan Mahmood Khander / Bangladesh’s Ambassador
Alberto Rubio. 10/10/2017
Bangladesh has increased exponentially its economic relations with Spain in the last few years thanks to the textile production. His ambassador, Hassan Mahmood Khander, since arriving in Madrid almost two years ago, aims to continue promoting trade and investment between both countries.
As a geographically remote country, what does Spain mean for Bangladesh?
We are indeed grateful to Spain. It is among the first European countries to recognize the independence of Bangladesh immediately after our Liberation War in 1971. She is a tested friend of Bangladesh for a long time.
At present, Spain is Bangladesh’s 4th largest export destination in the world and 3rd in the European Union (EU), only behind Germany and the UK. Ready Made Garments sector accounts for 90% of the total exports to Spain. These are being designed and manufactured in partnership with several globally renowned Spanish retailers like Grupo Inditex, Mango and El Corte Ingles, as reflects ICEX, the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade.
A large number of Bangladeshi diaspora in Spain are significantly contributing towards the overall socio-economic development of this country. Most of them are young, dynamic and entrepreneurial. They also play a noteworthy role in foreign exchange earnings of Bangladesh.
How is bilateral political cooperation developed in areas such as terrorism?
The diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Spain are excellent. After the establishment of diplomatic missions in the respective capitals of both countries, bilateral relations have been increasingly growing in-depth. Bangladesh considers Spain as its reliable partner. We believe terrorism is a global issue which should be addressed globally through a holistic approach. I believe, Spain is on board with us to combat this menace. Both countries are signatories to the UN Convention for Counter Terrorism and have their stake in multilateral anti-terrorism efforts.
Bilateral economic ties have grown in recent past. Will they continue to grow in the coming years?
Presently, the bilateral trade relations between Bangladesh and Spain are quite satisfactory. There are wider scopes to enhance the existing bilateral economic ties to a new height in the coming years. During the last Financial Year 2016-17, Bangladesh earned a sizeable amount of foreign exchange through its exports to Spain.
To me, product diversification is essential for increasing the overall bilateral trade volume. Bangladesh can immensely benefit from Spanish investment in the power, energy, infrastructure, road transport, railway and tourism sectors where they have state-of-the-art technologies, know how, and localization capacity.
Bangladesh has untapped potentials in the tourism sector. It is replete with unique and diverse stunning natural beauties to attract tourists. As Permanent Representative to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Head of Bangladesh Delegation, I had the opportunity to attend UNWTO’s 22nd General Assembly in Chengdu, China from 11-16 September 2017 and highlight tourism prospects of the country.
What do Spanish investments mean for the Bangladeshi economy?
Bangladesh can immensely benefit from the Spanish investments since they have the world class expertise in various sectors. Spanish investors can also make the best use of Bangladesh’s investment friendly environment, demographic dividends and cheap labour cost. They can enjoy investment facilities like tax holiday for several years, duty free access for importing capital machinery, 100% foreign ownership with unrestricted exit policy, 100% profit repatriation, and reinvestment of earnings like Foreign Direct Investment, multiple visa and work permit. In addition, Bangladesh is developing 100 economic zones to attract more foreign investments. Bangladesh government is offering an economic zone to Spanish investors, and they can choose any of the 30 zones that are being developed in parts of the country now.
Working conditions and workplaces in Bangladesh are often criticized for their shortcomings. How is your government working to improve these working conditions?
The government of Bangladesh is committed to look after the working environment and social safety measures for all the working employees in line with the International Labour Organization’s safety standards. As of today, most factories, especially the RMG factories, have been able to provide adequate working conditions for their employees.
I am pleased to add that the world’s top three eco-friendly LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified and green RMG factories are located in Bangladesh. Envoy Textiles, situated in Mymensingh and the first denim-producing green factory in the world, Remi Holdings and Plummy Fashions, situated in Narayanganj are top as green garment and knitwear factories respectively, and have taken the garment and textile factories of Bangladesh to new heights.
Should we expect any bilateral visit by the government of Bangladesh to Spain in the near future?
Recently we had a fruitful meeting with the Spanish Ambassador to Bangladesh, Mr. Álvaro de Salas Giménez de Azcárate, and Spanish business representatives in the Embassy of Bangladesh, Madrid. The discussion revolved around enhancing commercial relations and possibilities of arranging high profile government bilateral visits.