The Vietnamese ambassador has highlighted Chattogram as a key investment hub for his country's businessmen amid efforts to boost Bangladeshi exports and check a massive trade deficit with the South Asian economic powerhouse.
Pham Viet Chien said in the January-September period bilateral trade crossed $1.1 billion and is set to grow further in the coming days. Had there not been a Covid-19 pandemic, trade would have reached the $2 billion benchmark Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had hoped for last year.
That goal can still be achieved in the coming days with adequate cooperation, the ambassador said at a meeting held on Wednesday at the World Trade Centre in the port city between a Vietnamese business delegate and Bangladeshi business leaders engaged in the city.
The Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industries (CCCI) organised the event.
With a view to promoting Vietnamese investment in the port city, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the chamber and the Vietnam International Investment Promotion Alliance was signed at the event.
Apart from the Vietnamese envoy, Do Quoc Hung, deputy director general at Vietnam's ministry of industries and commerce spoke at the event on behalf of the 32-member Vietnamese delegate.
CCCI President Mahbubul Alam chaired the meeting with SM Rahman, president of Bangladesh-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industries accompanying him.
Mahbubul Alam said Bangladesh has a huge trade deficit with Vietnam and businessmen from both countries can invest to reduce this disparity while urging Vietnamese investors to capitalise on the commercial advantages of the port city Chattogram.
For perspective, bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Vietnam reached $739.89 million in the last fiscal year where Bangladeshi exports were worth meagre $61.29 million compared with imports of $678.6 million, Rizwan Rahman, president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry said on Tuesday.
Mahbubul also called on Vietnamese business leaders to take part in the upcoming Chattogram International Trade Fair 2023. Betting on the prospects of first direct flights between the two countries, he hoped the Dhaka-Hanoi route would be launched for direct air travel by December.
On Monday, Vietnamese budget airline VietJet Air revealed plans to start direct flights on the Dhaka-Hanoi route by year-end.
Backing Mahbubul's claims, Vietnam government official Do Quoc Hung said information gap remains an issue between the two sides and that regular two-way business travels are essential to boosting trade.
He invited a Bangladeshi trade delegate to Vietnam next year, which marks the 50th year of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
SM Rahman said there is scope for Bangladeshi exports of seafood, leather and pharmaceutical products to Vietnam. Bangladesh can also boost its agricultural production and exports with technical assistance from Vietnam, a powerhouse in the sector.
Other speakers at the event emphasised setting up peer-to-peer communication channels between business leaders of the two countries while lauding the Vietnamese delegate for helping strengthen bilateral ties.
Those present at the meeting included business leaders from Chattogram units of BGMEA, BKMEA, BGAPMEA, BWCCI, Agro Sector and more.