Bangladesh and Maldives will establish two regular consultation mechanisms as the two South Asian nations aim to boost cooperation on trade and business.
The two mechanisms include a joint commission for comprehensive cooperation led by the respective foreign ministers and annual foreign office consultations led by the respective foreign secretaries.
The two countries also agreed to establish a direct shipping line through a shipping agreement to further increase bilateral trade.
Necessary memorandums of understanding (MoUs) will be signed during Maldives President Ibrahim Solih’s visit to Dhaka in March to join the celebrations of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh.
These decisions were taken at a meeting between Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and his Maldivian counterpart, Abdullah Shahid, during the latter’s visit to Dhaka between February 8-11 at the invitation of Bangladesh, according to a joint communique issued by the foreign ministry yesterday.
Maldivian foreign minister held a meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart, paid courtesy calls to President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and visited the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum during his stay.
Maldives is home to some 90,000 Bangladeshi migrants, a large portion of who are undocumented, while there are also a good number of Maldivian students in Bangladesh.
The average volume of the country’s exports to Maldives is $6 million while imports amount to $50 million.
The two countries want to augment their cooperation on climate issues, tourism, trade and human resources development.
Momen proposed to regularly hold commerce secretary level meetings between Bangladesh and Maldives in order to address trade issues in detail, comprising representatives from various line ministries. The Maldives side welcomed the proposal.
He also expressed Bangladesh’s interest to sign a preferential trade agreement (PTA) with Maldives within the purview of WTO provisions, with a view to harnessing the trade potential.
He called upon the Maldives side to source world-class healthcare, garments, processed food, agro products, household appliances, construction materials, eco-friendly jute, leather, plastic, ceramic and light-engineering products from Bangladesh at competitive prices.
He also sought Maldivian investment in a joint package on tourism and suggested collaboration for market development, sharing of best practices and exchange of expert tour operators between the two countries.
The minister particularly urged for the promotion of coastal and river tourism between Male, the capital of Maldives, and Chattogram.
He expressed Bangladesh’s willingness to offer training courses to the UN peacekeepers of Maldives in Bangladesh.
The two sides stressed on supporting each other in different negotiating platforms on climate change and implementing the Paris Agreement as well.
The Bangladeshi minister asked Maldives to regularise the remaining undocumented Bangladeshi expatriates at an accelerated pace.
In response, the Maldivian minister Shahid said the goal of the regularisation programme that began in 2019 is to legalise and provide jobs to those who wish to stay in Maldives while assisting those who wish to return to home voluntarily.
He said that undocumented workers are vulnerable to violation of their rights and requested Bangladesh to facilitate the repatriation of Bangladeshis who wish to return.
Shahid said a moratorium on recruitment of new unskilled workers may be in place until the regularisation of existing undocumented expatriates was completed.
However, Maldives would continue to welcome skilled workers from Bangladesh as before.
He also proposed signing an MoU to resolve the challenges of migrant workers between the two countries. Bangladesh’s side agreed to hold internal stakeholder consultations on the matter.
Momen then suggested the recruitment of Bangladeshis through agencies nominated by the government and endorsed by the Bangladesh High Commission in Male.
The Maldives side took a positive note on the suggestion.
Shahid thanked the government of Bangladesh for the support provided to Maldives amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including the deployment of a medical team from Bangladesh to help Maldives in its efforts to combat the crisis.
Meanwhile, Momen appreciated Maldives’ decision to vaccinate all expatriates free of cost.