June 24, 2024, 2:04 am


Diplomatic correspondent

Published:
2024-05-20 12:40:16 BdST

Trade, investment, Rohingya, regional security to get priority in Australian FM's Visit


Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong is scheduled to pay an official visit to Bangladesh on May 21-22 to strengthen their bilateral relationship with Bangladesh and find ways to boost cooperation for regional peace, prosperity and security.

Issues related to promotion of trade and investment, sustainable and renewable energy production, Rohingya crisis, maritime security, technology transfer and free and open Indo-Pacific region are likely to be discussed during her visit, officials said here on Sunday.

Penny Wong is likely to have a courtesy meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina apart from holding a bilateral meeting with her Bangladesh counterpart Hasan Mahmud, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told media.

A small delegation including Deputy Secretary, South and Southeast Asia Group and Head of the Office of Southeast Asia, in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Michelle Chan will accompany the Australian foreign minister, he said.

The Australian minister is likely to visit the Rohingya camp during her visit to see the situation there.

Bangladesh seeks Australia’s support in keeping the Rohingya issue alive globally with a view to the ultimate repatriation of the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals sheltered in Bangladesh.

Australia has a commitment to continue the humanitarian assistance for the Rohingyas and support Bangladesh in their repatriation effort.

Wong was born in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Her family moved to Australia in 1976, when she was eight years old, and settled in Adelaide.

The forthcoming visit by the Australian foreign minister demonstrates the country's growing interest in Bangladesh, an Australian diplomat told reporters.

Earlier this month, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said he looks forward to working with PM Hasina to strengthen the bilateral relationship and together contribute to regional peace, prosperity and security.

“As Indian Ocean nations, we share an interest in a region that is grounded in sovereignty, promotes the prosperity and security of our citizens, and addresses the threat of climate change," he said in a letter written to PM Hasina congratulating on her reelection in January.

The Australian PM highlighted the importance of their partnership in promoting "peace, prosperity and security" in the Indian Ocean.

He affirmed his support for growing bilateral and regional cooperation between Australia and Bangladesh.

“We have many common interests in increasing our trade and investment, promoting human rights, cooperating on people smuggling and addressing the Rohingya issue,” Albanese wrote.

Bangladesh and Australia have already signed a framework agreement to open newer trade and investment opportunities between the two countries.

The Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement (TIFA), the first of this kind between Australia and Bangladesh in the last five decades, is expected to provide a platform for institutionalised economic interactions and open newer opportunities for trade and investment.

In May last year, Australian Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts visited Bangladesh.

During the visit he said Bangladesh and Australia work closely together to promote their shared interests in regional peace and security, and have a growing trade and investment relationship.

Welcoming Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific Outlook, he said Australia seeks a region where “no country dominates, and no countries are dominated,” and the country thinks building a region like that requires efforts by all countries in the region.

“We welcome the Bangladesh government’s Indo-Pacific Outlook in that context. I particularly welcome the point in the Indo-Pacific Outlook that argues for an inclusive region,” Watts said while responding to a question from UNB in a group session at that time.

Australia recently sent a defence advisor to its High Commission in Dhaka, and, reciprocally, they welcome a defence advisor from Bangladesh in Australia.

From Australia's perspective, the defence adviser is a symbol of their "intention and willingness" to cooperate on defence matters.

The two countries are scheduled to hold the 5th Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) in Australia next month, said an official.

The 4th FOC was held in Dhaka in March last year.

The two-way trade now stands at around $4bn, reflecting Bangladesh’s significant economic growth and its highly complementary commercial strengths.

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