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PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia : Bangladesh and Malaysia today agreed to convene a meeting of Joint Commission of the two countries in 2015 to explore further areas of cooperation in different fields.
The two countries reached the consensus during the bilateral talks between the countries at Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office at Putrajaya, centre of federal administration of Malaysia.
Visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led the Bangladesh side at the talks, while the Malaysian side was headed by their Prime Minister Mohd. Najib Bin Tun Abdul Razak.
Ministers and senior officials of the both countries were present.
The talks made a breakthrough in two issues — one for convening the meeting of the Joint Commission and signing of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque said.
“As it’s the turn of Malaysia to convene the Joint Commission meeting, the Malaysian prime minister agreed to convene it (meeting) in 2015,” the foreign secretary said while briefing reporters after the meeting. The last Joint Commission meeting was held in Dhaka in 2005.
Senior Secretary of PM’s Office Md Abul Kalam Azad, PM’s Press Secretary AKM Shamim Chowdhuri and Home Secretary Mozammel Haque Khan were present.
Shahidul Haque said three major issues — trade and commerce, matter of the migrant workers in Malaysia and Malaysian investment in Bangladesh — prominently got importance in the discussion.
In the meeting, the Malaysian premier expressed profound satisfaction over excellent relations between the two countries saying, his country wants to take the relations to a new height.
“There is no irritation in the ties between the two countries. So we can take the relations to a new height,” Shahidul Haque said as the Malaysian PM was saying.
The foreign secretary said Bangladesh was pressing for signing of the FTA for a long time. “The Malaysian Prime Minister agreed on the issue and started negotiation with Bangladesh,” he said.
In the meeting, he said, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged the Malaysian premier for widening the quota- and duty-free access of Bangladeshi goods, particularly pharmaceuticals, jute goods, cement and footwear.
The Malaysian prime minister expressed his deep satisfaction over the hard labour of Bangladeshi workers living in Malaysia.
“Sincere services of Bangladeshi workers have pursued us to recruit 60,000 workers from Bangladesh which will begin with first bulk of 12,000 workers initially to be employed in Sarawak state of Malaysia,” Razak said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government has taken an initiative to send workers through giving necessary training and keeping record of the workers on a database.
She called on her Malaysian counterpart for extending support in the area of education and strengthening the cooperation in the areas of economy and trade.
Sheikh Hasina said the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Malaysia have reached a new height which gained ground through the historic visit of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to Malaysia in 1973.
At that time, Abdul Razak Hussein, father of present Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Bin Tun Abdul Razak, was the prime minister of Malaysia, Sheikh Hasina recalled.
The foreign secretary said the two countries agreed to enhance trade and commerce as the trade between the two countries is disproportionately in favour of Malaysia.
The Malaysian PM recognized the issue and agreed to take active initiatives to reduce the trade gap, he said.
The Malaysian premier informed Sheikh Hasina that around three lakh Bangladeshis are now working in Malaysia, mostly in construction and plantation. He said his country is ready to recruit more workers for plantation.
In this regard, Razak also raised the issue of illegal Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia saying: “We are concerned about the matter. Malaysian government will look into the matter to address the issue,” he said.
With regards to Malaysian investment in Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed for formation of a joint investment forum. “The issue will be discussed in detail in the joint meeting of the two countries,” the foreign secretary said.
Sheikh Hasina sought the support of the Malaysian prime minister for Bangladesh to become a dialogue partner of ASEAN when Malaysia will chair the South East Asian countries’ forum next year.
“The Malaysian Prime Minister has given consent that his country will positively support Bangladesh in this regard,” Shahidul Haque said.
Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina hoped that Malaysia will also continue its support to Bangladesh in the area of technical cooperation, including higher and vocational education.
Sheikh Hasina invited Mohd. Najib Bin Tun Abdul Razak to visit Bangladesh at his convenient time as she formed the new government after January 5, 2014 election.
The foreign secretary said the talks were held in a very cordial and warm atmosphere. At the beginning, Sheikh Hasina expressed her condolences and sympathy for the loss of lives in two Malaysian aircraft accidents.
Before the bilateral talks, the two leaders had a tete-a—tete.