During Saddam Hussein's regime in the late 1990s, Bangladesh exported jute products to Iraq, but the Middle Eastern country has not yet paid for the goods. Even before that, Bangladesh deposited money in the Iraqi central bank in 1985 under an agreement for exporting manpower, but Iraq has not returned the money yet.
However, the Iraqi authorities have recently expressed their willingness to pay back the amount, which now amounts to $34 million, Bangladesh Ambassador to Iraq Md Fazlul Bari informed the foreign ministry.
In a letter dated 26 October, the ambassador said the Iraqi Ministry of Finance has agreed to form a delegation to resolve the matter and have requested Bangladesh to give them an idea about a possible meeting place in Dhaka or Baghdad.
The Bangladesh Embassy in Iraq has urgently sought a list of delegation members and a place to hold the meeting to recover the money Iraq owes the Bangladesh Bank and the Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC).
According to sources, during 1997-98, the Grain Board of Iraq imported jute products from the BJMC for $17.36 million. The country has not paid the price for those products yet and as of 31 December 2020, the interest-bearing debt rose to $24.90 million.
In 1985, under the "Protocol for Employing Bangladeshi Manpower" signed between Bangladesh and Iraq, the Bangladesh Bank deposited some money in the Central Bank of Iraq. According to the Bangladesh Bank, as of 30 June 2015 the amount increased to $8.99 million including interests.
After receiving the letter from the Bangladesh ambassador to Iraq, the Ministry of Textiles and Jute has taken an initiative to form a delegation to collect the BJMC's dues. The ministry sent a letter to the Finance Division, the Financial Institutions Division and the Bangladesh Bank on 17 November, seeking the appointment of suitable officials to form a delegation for negotiations with the Iraqi Ministry of Finance.
BJMC Chairman Haider Jahan Faras told The Business Standard, "Bangladesh ambassador in Baghdad was aware of the BJMC's dues before joining his post. He has made a sincere diplomatic effort to collect the dues. In this context, the Iraqi authorities have shown a positive interest in paying the debt.
"Now there will be a negotiation between the two countries. Hopefully, Iraq will pay the BJMC's dues, but it will take some time."
According to the state-owned Sonali Bank, North Korea also imported rice, cement, tea, jute and jute products, urea fertiliser, animal skins, leather goods, soaps, detergents, toiletries and glycerin from Bangladesh in 1994 under the Barter Agreement, but they have not paid $11.62 million for that. The Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing, China has contacted the North Korean embassy there several times to collect the money, but the Kim Jong Un government has not responded.