Sheikh Hasina proposes for formation of new regional economic forum


Bangladesh on Monday proposed for formation of a regional economic forum involving five Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states of South and Southeast Asian region.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made the proposal during her talks with Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah at the Istana Nurul Iman, the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei, on Monday morning.

Briefing reporters after the talks, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said the members of the Southeast Asian Cooperation Organisation (SEACO), the proposed regional economic forum, will be Bangladesh and the Maldives from South Asia and Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei from Southeast Asia.
In response to the proposal, the Brunei Sultan assured that he will “favourably consider” the matter, the foreign secretary said.

PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim and Speech Writer Nazrul Islam were present at the briefing.

The foreign secretary said issues related to bilateral interests and international concerns including the Rohingya crisis came up for discussions at the talks.

Haque said the prime minister made some more proposals for further strengthening the bilateral ties and cooperation between Bangladesh and Brunei.

He said the prime minister made a proposal for increasing interaction between the business community and conducting a feasibility study for a preferential trade arrangement to this end.

Sheikh Hasina also proposed for holding discussion on constitution of a joint commission between the two countries.
She put emphasis on increasing cooperation in the fields of jute and jute goods, software, agro products, ceramic and tableware, shipbuilding industry and tourism.

The prime minister said the government is setting up industrial parks where the Brunei entrepreneurs could make investment there.

She laid importance to avoid double taxation, as well as mutual promotion and protection of investment.

The prime minister gave priority to health and agriculture sectors in the context of Brunei and said big collaboration between the two countries could be made in health professionals and pharmaceuticals.

The foreign secretary said both the prime minister and the Sultan said direct airlink between Bangladesh and Brunei should be established.

The prime minister proposed for military cooperation in non-weapon-related area like humanitarian operation and knowledge sharing.

In this connection, the Sultan highly praised Bangladeshi peacekeepers for maintaining peace in the trouble-torn areas in the world.

Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah extended her heartfelt greetings to the prime minister on her party’s landslide victory in the last general elections and assuming of office for the fourth time.

“It’s the verdict of the people and the victory is the recognition of socioeconomic development that Bangladesh achieved under the prime minister’s leadership,” Haque quoted the Sultan as saying.

Simultaneously, the Sultan said the visit of the prime minister is a milestone for elevation and expansion of bilateral relationship between Brunei and Bangladesh.

Sultan said there is a huge potentiality of boosting trade and commerce between the two countries.

He said cooperation between Brunei and Bangladesh could be made in different sectors like energy, food, people-to-people contact and connectivity.

On the Rohingya issue, Bolkiah put emphasis on “just and permanent solution” to the Rohingya crisis.

“We should make all sorts of efforts so that the Rohingyas can return,” she said.

In this connection, the prime minister sought ASEAN’s big involvement. The prime minister also sought the Sultan’s cooperation in this regard, Haque said.

About the ASEAN, the Sultan assured that Brunei will continue to help to strengthen the cooperation between Bangladesh and the regional forum.

At the talks, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina invited Brunei Sultan to visit Bangladesh along with his wife, the foreign secretary said.

Earlier, the Sultan greeted the prime minister by proceeding to the stair of the Palace breaking traditional Royal protocol of Brunei, the foreign secretary said.

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