My ultimate aim is for the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries, so that the established trade relations between Malaysia and Bangladesh could even be stronger without unnecessary issues on trade barriers.
Malaysian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Haznah Md Hashim was telling all these to Banglanews24.com in an interview.
Following is the detail interview of the envoy:
Banglanews: Malaysia was one of the first countries to recognise the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. Bangladesh - Malaysia enjoy friendly relation. Two countries relations growing up and reached new height past 50 years, what is your observation?
Haznah Md Hashim: Malaysia and Bangladesh have had a very close bilateral relations in the past 50 years. Not just at the government-to-government level, but that at the people-to-people as well. As you have rightly mentioned, Malaysia was among the first countries that had recognised an independent and sovereign Bangladesh back in 1971. Since then, relations have grown by leaps and bounds, especially in the past decade. This is rightly seen in our bilateral trade growth.
Furthermore, the relations between both countries under the leadership of both Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob continue to remain high. My hope is that this positive relations would continue to progress, especially as we move towards celebrating the 50 years anniversary of Malaysia-Bangladesh relations.
Banglanews: Bangladesh – Malaysia, how can more Increase bilateral trade and investment.
Haznah Md Hashim: Trade between Malaysia and Bangladesh has always been good. I am pleased with the bilateral trade performance with Bangladesh that has generally been on a positive trend. We strongly believe that there is ample scope for both countries to expand trade and investment cooperation.
Bangladesh is currently Malaysia’s 30th largest trading partner, and ranked second among South Asian nations. Bangladesh is also Malaysia’s 20th largest export destination, signifying the growing importance of Bangladesh as a soaring economy. In the pre pandemic COVID-19 era of 2019, trade between Malaysia and Bangladesh was recorded at around USD2.6 billion, an increase from the previous year’s record of USD 2.4 billion.
Having said that, Bangladesh continues to attract investments from Malaysia. Therefore, we hope that Bangladesh would continue to provide a conducive environment and facilitate Malaysian investors to participate in its economic activities.
This does not mean that the Malaysian investors are not facing any challenges here. In fact, our major investors are facing some major challenges but I am fully confident that the Government of Bangladesh under the distinguished leadership of Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would be able to extend some kind of assistance for the sake of the sustainability of Malaysian investors in Bangladesh, particularly the Malaysian Government-Link Companies (GLC).
Likewise, we would also like to encourage major Bangladeshi companies to invest in Malaysia. Companies from Bangladesh wanting to expand their businesses in the ASEAN region could fully utilise Malaysia as the gateway since we are strategically located with easy access to other ASEAN Member States.
I am also particularly looking forward to the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Bangladesh towards boosting the trade relations between our two countries.
Banglanews: Malaysia is a popular tourist destination for Bangladeshi, when can be open Malaysian tourist visa for Bangladeshi citizens?
Haznah Md Hashim:
Malaysia values the arrival of genuine Bangladeshi tourists. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, an estimated of 180,000 Bangladeshi tourists made Malaysia their preferred holiday destinations. We therefore sincerely hope that once the pandemic is over, genuine tourists would make Malaysia their destination of choice. Particularly for medical tourism as Malaysian healthcare is among the world’s best at an affordable price. Indeed, Malaysia has won the “Health and Medical Tourism: Destination of the Year” title for the fourth time at the Medical Tourism Award ceremony in London on 23 September 2020.
Even now, the Malaysian Government has already lifted the entry restriction, on a case-by-case basis effective 20 September 2021 for certain categories of fully vaccinated travellers, including for medical related treatments in Malaysia, upon obtaining a prior entry approval from the Immigration Department of Malaysia through dedicated portals of MyTravelPass / MyEntry along with the fulfilment of certain other criteria, including a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test result and a valid Malaysian visa.
As Malaysia is still in the process of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, international borders for tourism are still closed for now. Malaysia’s rapid vaccination might stir hope for eventual tourism revival.
Banglanews: Bangladesh faces Rohingya problem, as an ASEAN forum stronger member how can Malaysia more cooperate in this issues?
Haznah Md Hashim: Malaysia has always believed that addressing the root causes of the Rohingya crisis remains important in pursuing a resolution to the crisis.
In playing its role as one of the founding members of ASEAN, Malaysia had always urged Myanmar to continue its efforts in delivering its commitment towards ensuring effective repatriation and human rights protection of the returnees.
Moreover, as a country directly impacted by the Rakhine State crisis, and a newly elected Member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Malaysia will continue to support the ongoing efforts towards a safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of displaced Rohingya to their place of origin in Rakhine State.
In this context, Malaysia welcomes the continued support from the international community towards such repatriation. As the Rohingya issue definitely needs some attention, Malaysia believes that such continued international support will eventually bring some positive impact to this issue.
Banglanews: Bangladesh Government wanted export worker to Malaysia. In this regard have you any update Bangladesh - Malaysia (G to G plus) MOU.
Haznah Md Hashim: This Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is still currently being negotiated between Malaysia and Bangladesh. Let’s hope for an eventual positive outcome which would be able to serve the interests of both our nations.
Banglanews: Due to covid lockdown Many stranded Bangladeshi workers and students unable return to Malaysia, have you any initiative to take back them to Malaysia.
Haznah Md Hashim:
I would like to first emphasise that Malaysia appreciates the contribution made by Bangladeshi workers who are working legally in Malaysia. Those dedicated Bangladeshi workers have generated positive productivity effects in the emerging economy of Malaysia.
As stated earlier, the Malaysian Government has already lifted the entry restriction, on a case-by-case basis effective 20 September 2021 for certain categories of fully vaccinated travellers, and this would include any long term pass holders and students, upon obtaining a prior entry approval from the Immigration Department of Malaysia through dedicated portals of MyTravelPass / MyEntry along with the fulfilment of certain other criteria, including a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test result, and a valid Malaysian visa.
Having stated that, I have to emphasise further that the recruitment of foreign workers are resulted from a demand which is derived from the local industries. As Malaysia is transforming towards a high-income nation, Malaysia will eventually be moving away from labour-oriented towards more high-skilled job opportunities. This was clearly highlighted recently by my Prime Minister in tabling the Twelve Malaysia Plan, which is Malaysia’s development roadmap for the next five years.
Banglanews: As a High Commissioner to Bangladesh which sectors you will be emphasis for two countries relations.
Haznah Md Hashim: I am lucky to get this ambassadorial assignment at a country who is already in close relations with Malaysia. As such, apart from further strengthening and elevating the existing warm and cordial relations between the two countries, I envisage the need to actively pursuing economic diplomacy.
This is so as Bangladesh is now moving into a middle-income country and is a trade driven country that heavily depends on Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). I would therefore like to see an increase in trade between both countries, with the eventual hope of reaching at least the pre-pandemic figures. I am confident that with good policies and instruments, trade and investment will continue to boom and flourish.
My ultimate aim is for the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries, so that the established trade relations between Malaysia and Bangladesh could even be stronger without unnecessary issues on trade barriers. In this context, I wish to reiterate that Malaysia has already concluded 16 FTA since 1993, of which the latest one was concluded during the midst if the COVID-19 pandemic. Real-life examples of positive effects of FTA could always be seen in Malaysia of which it has contributed towards building Malaysia’s economic sustainability. Malaysia has now become a destination of choice to many global multi-nationals companies, making the country a hub for export by capitalising on the existing bilateral or multilateral FTA.
As Malaysia and Bangladesh celebrate 50 years of the establishment of the diplomatic relations, I am certain that the relations between our two brotherly countries will continue to grow and as such, I look forward to celebrating this auspicious milestone for the two great nations.
Banglanews: Thank you.
Haznah Md Hashim: Thank you, too.
BDST: 1543 HRS, OCT 24, 2021