Ireland renews commitment to Bangladesh's prosperity: Ambassador Kelly

Ireland renews commitment to Bangladesh's prosperity: Ambassador Kelly

Photo: UNB.


“The significance and sustained economic growth which we have seen in Bangladesh must be applauded"


Publisted at 7:22 PM, Tue May 28th, 2024

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Ireland’s Ambassador to Bangladesh and India Kevin Kelly has said they have a “renewed commitment” to Bangladesh, noting that they have a new Asia Pacific strategy that was launched last year.

“The significance and sustained economic growth which we have seen in Bangladesh must be applauded. We are very interested in understanding more about your economic model. Bangladesh in many ways, we see, is standing as an example of what can be achieved by hard work and strategic planning,” he said.

The ambassador, who submitted his credentials to President Mohammed Shahabuddin on Tuesday, was delivering his keynote speech at a roundtable discussion in Dhaka as part of Cosmos Dialogue.

He said Bangladesh is situated between two colossal markets in this region between India and China, and they see it as a “crucial gateway” to ASEAN, much as they see Ireland as being a very good gateway for Bangladesh into the European Union market.

On easing visas for Bangladeshis, the ambassador said with Masud Khan, Honorary Consul of Ireland in Bangladesh and his team they are going to look into the issue. “That’s a commitment. We are going to do that. Definitely that’s on our agenda. We are working with Masud and his team.”

Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, hosted the discussion titled "Bangladesh-Ireland Relations: Prognosis for the Future."

The session was chaired by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, a renowned scholar-diplomat and former advisor on Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Caretaker Government while Masud Khan, Honorary Consul of Ireland in Bangladesh delivered welcome remarks.

Lailufar Yasmin, professor, Department of International Relations, Dhaka University and Parvez Karim Abbasi, assistant professor, Department of Economics, East West University spoke as discussants. Cosmos Foundation Chairman Enayetullah Khan delivered closing remarks.

On the global matrix today, Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury said, Ireland has established itself as a state actor and he expressed his optimism that Ireland will help shape the European policy in a way so as to use them for Bangladesh in the aftermath of the LDC graduation.

The foreign affairs expert said both Bangladeshis and Irish are bonded by strong values, including a passion for freedom.

Both the Bengalis and Irish struggled for decades in achieving their sovereign identities, Dr Chowdhury said.

A second shared value is the desire and the ability to express individual and societal emotions through the medium of literature, he mentioned.

Masud Khan said indeed, both sides have been able to identify the areas in which potential cooperation between Bangladesh and Ireland could deepen.

“I would add to this list sports, in particular cricket. This is an activity which engages both the youth and adults of both countries, in one way or another. As the Honorary consul of Bangladesh, I shall make every possible effort to contribute to these efforts,” he said.

Masud said this year has been a remarkable one in terms of bilateral relations with a “successful” ministerial visit from Ireland to Bangladesh, a very rewarding courtesy meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Thereafter, earlier this month, Bangladesh and Ireland held their first ever Foreign Office Consultations in Dublin.

Enayetullah Khan said he is absolutely persuaded that there is a great deal that Bangladesh and Ireland can achieve by working together.

“A good beginning has been made by the establishment of a Consulate in Dhaka. Already some benefits are coming to light. Public interest in Ireland has been growing in Bangladesh. The first ever foreign office consultations between the two sides held in Dublin recently was yet another milestone along our journey of bilateral cooperation,” he said.

As an important member of the European Union, Khan said, he has no doubt that Ireland will render Bangladesh every support in smoothening Bangladesh’s transition to a post LDC -phase of development.

He said Ireland can take pride in its excellent citadels of learning in their universities which will continue to attract Bangladeshi students.

Ambassador Kelly said one has to admit that the current economic ties between Bangladesh and Ireland are too small with just over 540 million euros in bilateral trade per annum.

“That's the figure we have from last year. But the good news is that figure is on an upward trajectory, and we believe that those figures can be greatly increased,” he said, adding that they support Bangladesh’s efforts to diversify goods and services trade beyond the traditional predominance of readymade garments.

The ambassador referred to the recent opening of the Honorary Consul in Dhaka and said, “It gives me great pride to see the Irish flag. It's a small start but it is an indication of our growing commitment to Bangladesh.”

About renewing their commitment to engage with the region wider than China, he said, “I think in the past, there's an acknowledgement that perhaps a huge amount of our focus in the wider Asia Pacific region went to China. And now there is a real attempt to rebalance that and to look to other countries such as Bangladesh. I won't go through the details of that strategy. But there are over 100 different actions, opening up whole new areas for collaboration, people to people links, economic and political ties.”

The ambassador said their trade policy plays a very important role in promoting their values and standards, including the positive contribution that trade and investments can make to sustainable development.

“We managed to attract a huge amount of international multi multinational investment. One of our greatest assets is our highly skilled, educated, and increasingly multicultural population. It's also one of the youngest in Europe. We have one of the best education systems in the world,” said the Irish envoy.

Mentioning that the Irish dairy sector has enjoyed strong exports to Bangladesh in recent years, the envoy said they are open to exploring further areas for economic engagement with Bangladesh.

Ambassador Kelly said they would like to be a friend for Bangladesh. “I'm encouraged to see that the relations between the EU and Bangladesh are growing ever stronger.”

He said they support the negotiations and the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Bangladesh and the EU.

“We know that'll recast a much more modern relationship in terms of political and trade engagement, moving away from aid. We also see real potential in the Global Gateway Initiative, which aims to support climate action and renewable energy projects in Bangladesh,” said the ambassador.

He said they support the graduation of Bangladesh to the GSP plus scheme and Ireland is supportive of measures to minimize any economic shocks that may arise from graduation.

The envoy said they are committed to the collective response to this long running humanitarian catastrophe – the Rohingya crisis.

Prof Lailufar Yasmin said Island comes into play being the wealthiest country within the European Union and it has a lot to offer for Bangladesh.

She laid emphasis on people to people contact as they are talking about academic collaboration.

Talking about skilled migration, Prof Lailufar said, “We can have dual degree programs. And these dual degrees will work in Ireland and in many other countries, where there is a real shortfall of educated and skilled sort of graduates.”

Prof Abbasi said Ireland can get a steady supply of skilled IT professionals as the country has at least 600,000 IT professionals. “So Ireland being the hub of the IT sector, we could actually engage with them.”

He also talked about the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and Free Trade Agreement issues.

“This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship as was the final line of the movie Casablanca. So let us take time to nurture this. And again, only good things will result,” he added.



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