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France and Bangladesh

Political relations

Bilateral relations in the late 1980s and early 1990s enjoyed a boost following the visit by President Mitterrand in 1990 and French proposals for a flood prevention programme. Sheikh Hasina, then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, visited France in 1999.

Regular high-level visits since then have firmly established this political dialogue. Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Morshed Khan visited France in April 2006, for the first time since Bangladesh proclaimed its independence. The Bangladesh State Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs visited Paris in May 2009. Bernard Kouchner welcomed Foreign Minister Dipu Moni to Paris on 21 June 2010 and Jean-Louis Borloo visited Dacca in October 2009 prior to the Copenhagen Summit.

France spoke out in support of Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (2006), when the Central Bank of Bangladesh decided to remove him from his position as Managing Director of Grameen Bank in March 2011. This decision was confirmed in May 2011 by the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Martin Hirsch, High Commissioner for Active Solidarity against Poverty, made two visits to Bangladesh, in December 2009 and in April 2011, to meet Professor Yunus. On 30 October 2012, Muhammad Yunus met the French President at the Elysée Palace.

Bilateral economic relations

An agreement on promoting and protecting investments has been in place since October 1986. Lafarge, which built a cement works in the north of the country, is the biggest overseas investor in Bangladesh (USD280 million), gas sector excluded. French investment priorities include the LPG sector (Total invested USD16 million in the construction of a gas plant in Chittagong, opened in January 2003), water treatment (Ondéo-Degrémont) and pharmaceuticals (Aventis).

Bilateral trade with France grew by 18% in 2010. There is a structural trade deficit between the two countries, which rose from €869 million in 2009 to €1,051 million in 2010. Imports rose by 18.6% from €940 million in 2009 to €1,130 million in 2010. Exports rose from €72 million in 2009 to €80 million in 2010, an increase of 10.8%. The balance of trade remains strongly in deficit, with imports almost fifteen times higher than exports.

Despite a recovery in French exports (+10.8% in 2010, compared with -3% in 2009), the stagnating export trend over the past ten years reflects a lack of interest in the Bangladeshi market on the part of French business. 85% of France’s exports to Bangladesh consist of industrial and agricultural machinery (23%), IT, electronic, electrical and optical products (19.3%), pharmaceutical specialities (18%) and chemicals (18%). Agricultural products, which accounted for 27% of French exports in 2001, now account for only 1.2%.

Imports from Bangladesh were worth a total of €1,130 million in 2010, making France the country’s fourth largest export market. 98% of its exports to France are made up of textiles, making Bangladesh France’s fourth largest supplier of textiles after China, India and Turkey. The Bangladeshi textile industry is well equipped to cope with the global downturn: production targeting the middle and bottom end of the range, cheap labour, good quality of production and a climate of trust established with the main overseas buyers.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our policy of cultural, scientific and technical cooperation with Bangladesh falls within the framework of a cultural cooperation agreement signed on 10 March 1987. Its two main pillars are the two Alliances Françaises institutes, in Chittagong and Dacca, both of which are long established and highly respected. A university and technical cooperation scheme is also in place. As a mark of the quality of the cultural relations between our two countries, the Fondation de l’Alliance Française organised a Bangladesh Month in Paris in April 2011. The Alliances Françaises in Bangladesh also work in partnership with the Goethe Institut, cooperating on the organisation of the Dance in Resonance workshop in Dacca over the summer of 2012, for example.

In 1991, France wrote off €598 million of Bangladesh government debt. Following the reform of France’s cooperation policy, Bangladesh is no longer part of the Priority Solidarity Zone (ZSP), nor does it figure on the list of countries eligible for aid from the Emerging Countries Reserve (RPE). In June 2009, however, the Interministerial Committee on International Cooperation and Development (CICID) authorised the French Development Agency (AFD) to canvass in Bangladesh with a view to non-concessional lending, as part of a mandate to promote "green and inclusive growth" (CVS).

The European Union and BangladeshA commercial cooperation agreement between the European Union and Bangladesh has been in place since 1976, but in May 2000 the two countries signed a new third-generation cooperation agreement that included a clause on human rights. Bangladesh is by far the biggest single beneficiary of the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) and since 2002 has been entitled by its LDC status to benefit from the "Everything But Arms" initiative (immediate duty-free access to EU markets for all imports from LDCs except weapons and ammunition). Bangladesh joined the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) forum in November 2012. The United Kingdom, the leading bilateral lender to Bangladesh and second largest investor in the country, is home to the largest Bangladeshi community on European soil (300,000 people, mostly from the Sylhet region).

The United Nations and Bangladesh

Bangladesh is working hard to strengthen its influence within international and regional organisations. Bangladesh is the second largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations and the leading provider of police forces, with some 10,400 men deployed in nine countries at end 2011. Bangladesh was a member of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and of the Human Rights Council until 2012, and sits on the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission.

Updated on 05.11.12



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