First ever Foreign Office Consultations between the Foreign Ministries of Bangladesh and Brunei took place today at the State Guest House Meghna. Foreign Secretary (Senior Secretary) Md. Shahidul Haque led the Bangladesh delegation while Hajah Siti Norishan Haji Abdul Ghafor, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs And Trade, led the Brunei side.
The meeting was held in a warm and cordial atmosphere. While both sides expressed satisfaction at the current state of bilateral relations, they stressed on the need for regular exchange of visits, including at the highest level, as well as regular contacts and interaction between leaders and officials, to steer bilateral cooperation.
During the meeting, major areas of bilateral cooperation were discussed at length. Both parties agreed to sign three finalized MoUs- (i) MoU on Cultural and Arts Cooperation; (ii) MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Youth and Sports; and (iii) MoU on Scientific and Technical Cooperation in Agriculture. Brunei has also agreed for an “Exchange of Notes” for the exemption of visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and official passports as well as expediting the proposed draft MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Fisheries and Air Services Agreement by Bangladesh. All the finalized instruments may be signed during the VVIP visit, likely to be scheduled in 2019.
Bangladesh briefed Brunei on humanitarian assistance and repatriation initiatives for 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingya, temporarily sheltered in Bangladesh. Both sides expressed concern on the plight of the Rohingya and stressed on a peaceful and durable resolution of the crisis. Brunei appreciated Bangladesh’s humanitarian gesture, generous assistance, efforts towards safe, dignified, voluntary, and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya. Bangladesh also appreciated Brunei’s humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya.
Bilateral trade also received a major focus in the Consultation. Two-way trade between Bangladesh and Brunei has shown an upward trend in the recent years but both sides also agreed that trade volume was far less than existing potentials. In order to increase bilateral trade, both countries emphasized on the need to explore new areas and to consider the possibility of preferential arrangement and regular consultative mechanism. Brunei has agreed to positively consider working with Bangladesh in various sectors, such as in halal food, oil, gas, power generation, textiles, leather and agro-based industries.
Bangladesh apprised Brunei of the robust economic growth in the last decade due to accelerated industrialization and economic activities, which led to progressive increase in demand for energy. Given the growing demand of energy in Bangladesh, both countries agreed to work on an MoU on G2G cooperation involving the private sectors in the field of energy and power to explore the possibility of technical cooperation in the exploration of oil and natural gas; cooperation in human resource development and capacity building of energy sector professionals.
Expatriate workers from Bangladesh have been taking part in the modernization of Brunei for more than two decades. At present, an estimated 16,000 Bangladeshi expatriate workers working in Brunei. The number is expected to go up further. As such, both sides expressed keen interest to work together to address expatriate workers’ related issues in an integrated manner to make labour migration ethical and sustainable.
Bangladesh and Brunei have also agreed to explore working on a bilateral instrument to promote collaborative efforts in higher education to facilitate exchange of academic experience, research findings and collaborative research in technical and vocational education to create a pool of skilled manpower in various trades. Brunei also agreed to continue offering scholarships for Bangladeshi students.
Both sides recognized the need for deeper cooperation among the financial institutions to ensure smooth services for enhanced bilateral trade and investment. As such, both countries agreed to work for a formal collaboration mechanism between central banks and relevant institutions.
Brunei has expressed keen interest to invest in BEZA to for intermediary products which will be taken to Brunei for further value addition for exporting to ASEAN and other world markets. Also, they have shown interest to invest in Bangladeshi hotel business.
Both countries expressed interest to work together in the health sector and explore feasible areas for cooperation. Brunei has offered training and employment opportunities for Bangladeshi nurses and paramedics.
Both sides agreed to maintain defence cooperation and exchanges at various levels and deepen collaboration in areas such as personnel training, exchange of expertise, knowledge sharing between think-tanks, joint exercises and procurement of defence equipment and logistics by Brunei, etc.
Prior to the Foreign Office Consultations the Permanent called on the Hon’ble Foreign Minister at the State Guest House Meghna and discussed on further strengthening the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Brunei.
The next foreign office consultations will be held within two years in Brunei.