Ambassador Ito said he has been advocating that Araihajar should be the best possible economic zone in Asia, beating its rivals in countries like Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines.
The envoy said they will look into opportunities at Mirsarai under Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar, being developed on a contiguous land of 30,000 acres, and a possible economic zone in Maheshkhali-Matarbari area if Araihajar becomes successful.
He shared the plans on the three potential economic zones for the Japanese investors in Bangladesh while responding to questions at a virtual dialogue titled “Bangladesh-Japan Relations: Prognosis for the Future” where he delivered the keynote speech.
Ambassador Ito said the Economic Zone at Araihajar will be ready for its operation by the end of the next year.
Due to the Covid-19 situation, he said, he cannot exactly say how many companies are coming to make investments but it is really crucial to see successful and continuous business partnership between Bangladesh and Japan.
“I’m sure down the line it’ll attract more investments from Japan,” he said, adding that they might be able to see 100 companies making investments.
The Japanese envoy said Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is now doing feasibility study on Mirsarai economic zone and then will explore the third possible economic zone at Matarbari-Maheshkhali area which is being developed as energy hub and industrial zone.
“I’m sure we’ll have the opportunity to develop Japanese economic zone in Matarbari-Maheshkhali area as well,” he said.
Talking about Public Private Economic Dialogue (PPED), ambassador Ito said this has been a major vehicle of economic partnership and the two countries have resolved many issues related to business climate through this mechanism.
“Unless and until you resolve those issues and challenges, the existing Japanese companies will not come as fast as you might be hoping for,” he said, adding that there are still some issues that need to be addressed.
The Japanese envoy further said there are three main challenges in the eyes of Japanese companies. Most of the Japanese companies are not happy about issues like customs clearance, which takes time and requires them to go through cumbersome procedures.
Next comes trade financing, in particular the slow processing of letter of credit, and restrictions on telegraphic transfer, Ito added.
In only two countries of Asia, a telegraphic transfer is not used as the primary method of settling import transactions, he said, adding that Bangladesh and Pakistan maintain similar restrictions.
As for the investment climate, he said, there have been a lot of improvements despite Covid-19 pandemic. “I fully appreciate efforts made by the government of Bangladesh.”
Cosmos Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Cosmos Group, hosted the dialogue as part of its on-going “Ambassador’s Lecture Series”.
The opening remarks were delivered by the Cosmos Foundation chairman Enayetullah Khan. The session was chaired by Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, renowned scholar-diplomat and former advisor on foreign affairs of Bangladesh caretaker government.