People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Official Name – People’s Republic of Bangladesh
Location – Southern Asia, located in the delta of the Padma (Ganges) and Jamuna (Brahmaputra) rivers in the north eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, bordered by the Indian states of West Bengal to the west and north and northeast, and Tripura and Mizoram to the east. To the southeast, it shares a boundary with Myanmar. The southern part of Bangladesh opens into the Bay of Bengal.
Area – 144,000km2 (55,813sq mi)
Climate – Semitropical, monsoonal; mild winter (October – March); hot, humid summer (March – June); humid, warm rainy monsoon (June – October)
Capital – Dhaka
Population – 164.7 million (2017)
Religion – 89.1% Muslim, 10% Hindu and other religions make up the remaining 0.9% (Buddhist, Christian)
Language – Bangla (official, known as Bengali), English is widely used.
Ethnic groups – 98% of population are ethnic Bengalis, 2% Biharis and other ethnic tribes (Chakma, Tanchangya, Kuki, Bawm, Marma, Garo, and Santal)
Type – Parliamentary Democracy with unicameral Parliament
President – Abdul Hamid
Prime Minister – Sheikh Hasina Wazed
Parliament Speaker – Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury
Foreign Minister – Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali
GDP – 249.7 billion USD (2017)
GDP growth rate – 7.3% (2017)
GDP per capita – 1516.51 USD (2017)
Inflation rate – 6.3% (2017)
GNI (PPP) – 664.45 billion USD (2017)
GNI per capita (PPP) – 4040 USD (2017)
Currency Unit – Bangladeshi taka
Export – 35.96 billion USD (2017)
Import – 52.84 billion USD (2017)
Exports of goods and services (% of GDP) – 15% (2017)
Imports of goods and services (% of GDP) – 20% (2017)
Major Exports – Garments, Frozen fish, Seafood, Jute and jute goods, Leather
Major Imports – Machinery and equipment, Chemicals, Iron and steel, Textiles, Foodstuffs, Petroleum products, Cement
Total – 204,596 (2017)
Army – 148,617
Navy – 21,281
Air Force – 14,000
Expenditure – 1.5 billion USD (2018)
Bangladesh – Myanmar Bilateral Relations
Myanmar and Bangladesh have good relations historically, economically and socially. After the first Anglo – Burmese War, the Bangla region under British India and Rakhine State under British Burma trade across the border and raised economic relations. The movement of people in the border areas was freely allowed under the British rule. In 1971, after the establishment of the Republic of Bangladesh, Myanmar was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh as a sovereign state and subsequently in 1972, the two countries established diplomatic relations. But from the following years after 1980s, the bilateral relations declined steadily because of three main reasons; the domestic political situations of each country, the maritime dispute, the long-standing immigrant issue and the border demarcation problem. However, after Myanmar’ transition to democracy and solving the maritime border dispute at the International Tribunal of The Law of The Sea in 2012, the potential for bilateral cooperation between the two countries came out with considerable scope in various areas. Despite these potential, on the other hand, there are still many challenges have to be settled in bilateral relations such as prolonged border immigrant issue, border demarcation problem, drug-trafficking and terrorism issues.
With the transition to democracy and further liberalization of economy, Myanmar became the attractive destination for making investments and doing business in the region. Trade volume of Myanmar with neighbouring countries is also increasing year-to-year in line with further economic reform measures taken by Myanmar government to attract more investment. In this context, it gives the great potential for bilateral trade and economic cooperation between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Historically, Bay of Bengal area is an important place in connecting the trade and economic flow of the region. Myanmar and Bangladesh had started the official bilateral relations following 1973 after Myanmar government’s recognition of Bangladesh as a sovereign state. A general trade agreement was signed between the two countries on 3 August 1973 and it is renewable every year. On June 1, 1989 three MOUs were signed on border trade and economic cooperation providing the joint ventures for government-to-government, government-private, private-private and cooperation in private sector between FBCCI and UMFCCI. On May 18, 1994, the border trade protocol was signed between the two countries legalizing the informal trade.
However, border trade formally started on 5 September 1995 after the opening of Teknaf-Maungtaw border trade post. The potential for cooperation between the two countries are significant but the more important focus is on border trade. In 1995 and 1996, Bangladesh fairs and exhibitions were held in Yangon gave the great demand for Bangladeshi products. In 1998, Bangladeshi trade delegation visited Myanmar and consequently in that year, Sittwe trade post was opened in order to boost the trade between the two countries. However, majority of the border trade usually takes place at Maungtaw borer trade post and informal trade are more common in border areas. Bangladesh exports pharmaceuticals and chemical fertilizer, textile fabrics, leather bags and purses etc. Myanmar exports rice, pulses, maize, betel nuts, pulp, logs, minerals etc. There is indication that there is the potential for thriving cross border trade between southern Bangladesh and north-western part of Myanmar across the Naf river along the border of two countries. As northern part of Rakhine state is physically isolated with the rest of the country, cross border trade with Bangladesh can greatly contribute to the emergence of local trade markets which can fulfil the needs of local residents in the cross border region. In order to boost the mutual trade, although the two countries signed a coastal shipping agreement to allow small ships to carry goods from Yangon and Sittwe port of Myanmar to Bangladesh, it yet to be implemented. In 2003, Bangladesh-Myanmar Joint Trade Commission was formed to promote mutual trade and investment.
However, bilateral trade between Myanmar and Bangladesh has not considerably increased over the past decades. The total amount of bilateral trade is significantly lower among the trade with other neighbouring countries. The trade balance between Bangladesh and Myanmar is shown as follow:
But with increasing great potential for investment and cooperation between the two countries, there are many opportunities to promote bilateral trade in coming years. In December 2011, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Myanmar. In her visit, Sheikh Hasina signed an agreement for establishing the Joint Commission of bilateral cooperation between the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Government of People’s Republic of Bangladesh and a Memorandum of Understanding for establishing a Joint Business Council (JBC) between Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry. These agreements will further enhance the cooperation in bilateral trade and economic between two countries.
Bilateral Cooperation under BIMSTEC and BCIM-EC
Bangladesh and Myanmar are also taking part in the crucial role of regional cooperation like BIMSTEC and BCIM-EC. Both of two countries are situated at the strategic position in the region. Promotion of bilateral relations under this regional cooperation will develop infrastructure and connectivity between two countries and will further bring fruitful economic outcomes. In this context, Myanmar is situated at the crossroad of South and Southeast Asia, gateway for Bangladesh to ASEAN countries and China and it is also situated at the strategic position for BIMSTEC transport network. Myanmar is Bangladesh close neighbour as well as an access to ASEAN market for Bangladesh. In this regard, Bangladesh should boost its relations with Myanmar in line with its Look East Policy. Trade routes through Myanmar are crucial part for the promotion of BIMSTEC economic cooperation. In 2003 Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to implement direct highway between two countries, commonly called BIMSTEC Highways. The project route is 1370 kilometres long and it is also part of Asian Highway.
Another potential is in regional energy security cooperation since Myanmar and Bangladesh are endowed with reserves of oil and gas. Bilateral cooperation should be promoted in the exploration of large scale hydropower for the improvement of BIMSTEC regional energy sector cooperation. Huge investments are needed to implement such projects. Flowing of FDI into the region not only contribute to the economic and infrastructural development of BIMSTEC but also make potential for attractive destination to come more investments. Regarding this, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India agreed to an understanding for a tri-nation gas pipeline project.
Under BCIM-EC, there are also many potential for promotion of bilateral cooperation. BCIM-EC, known as Bangladesh, China, India, and Myanmar Economic Corridor is an initiative by China as part of its ambitious BRI initiative which intends to connect the relevant countries through railways, airway, roads and including waterways. BCIM-EC is aimed at improving these countries’ infrastructure, trade and investment, and energy sector. Since Myanmar and Bangladesh are rich with natural gas, oil and resources, the cooperation in energy sector for supplying to these giant regional powers will bring the huge benefit for Bangladesh and Myanmar. Since Myanmar and Bangladesh will have the opportunity to get access to China and India through BCIM-EC, this will make Myanmar and Bangladesh as lucrative place for investment and business in the region. So, cooperation between Bangladesh and Myanmar to promote trade and investment should be enhanced in line with BCIM-EC.
However, despite these considerable potential in the future, lack of people-to-people communication, border management problem, Bengali immigrant issue, drug-trafficking and terrorism issues in the cross border areas raised the concerns for regional security and stability. In order to achieve the full realization of the enormous good potential in bilateral relations, the abovementioned issues are strategically needed to tackle so that it will contribute to wider economic integration in the region and further enhance the bilateral cooperation to the status of strategic relations.
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(December 1, 1991). Bangladesh’s Trade Relation with Myanmar. In Economic and Political Relations Between Bangladesh And Neighbouring Countries. Chiba, Japan: Institute of Developing Economies Japan External Trade Organization.
Foizee, B. (8 August, 2016). Bangladesh-Myanmar relations. The Independent.
Kallol, A. S. (September 17, 2017). Myanmar’s best interest lie in stabilising Rakhine. Dhaka Tribune.
Sein, P. C. (October 23,2016). Myanmar’ Potential for BIMSTEC . Global New Light of Myanmar.
Tun, M. M. (2016). Myanmar – Bangladesh Relations: Challenges and Opportunities. Yangon, Myanmar: Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies.