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Bangladesh

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Bangladesh country brief

Bilateral relations

Overview

Bangladesh is a low-lying, mainly riverine country on the Bay of Bengal and covers an area of 147,000 square kilometres (which is about two-thirds the size of Victoria). Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation with a democratic, parliamentary system of government and a population of approximately 165 million people.

Australia was among the first countries to recognise Bangladesh after it achieved independence in 1971. Shortly after, on 31 January 1972, Australia established our resident mission in Dhaka, and we have enjoyed a strong development and trade relationship with Bangladesh since then. We have shared interests in a secure, prosperous and inclusive Indian Ocean region; and support independent, sovereign and resilient states.

Australia and Bangladesh hold regular senior officials’ talks and the two countries will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations in 2022.

High‑level visits and meetings

Recent bilateral visits and meetings include:

  • In November 2019, then Assistant Trade Minister, Hon Mr Mark Coulton MP, and visiting Bangladesh Commerce Minister, Mr Tipu Munshi met in Sydney for the inaugural Australia-Bangladesh Trade Conference.
  • In September 2019, Foreign Minister Payne visited Bangladesh and met with Prime Minister Hasina and participated in the 3rd Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Blue Economy Ministerial Conference.
  • In April 2018, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was visiting Sydney for the 2018 Global Summit of Women.

Trade and investment relationship

Bangladesh has achieved impressive economic growth in the last decade (averaging over six per cent) and plans to graduate from Least Developed Country status in 2024. Australia and Bangladesh intend to pursue new opportunities to promote trade and investment so that we can support a shared economic recovery from COVID-19.

In 2018-19, Australia’s two-way goods and services trade with Bangladesh grew to over $2.5 billion, with two-way trade in goods valued at $1.9 billion. Agricultural products and cotton are among Australia’s key merchandise exports to Bangladesh, while clothing and textiles are key imports. As a Least Developed Country, products from Bangladesh enter Australia duty-free and quota-free.

While challenges remain to doing business, Bangladesh offers increasing long‑term commercial opportunities to Australian companies operating in education services, food and beverages, agribusiness and energy and minerals. Australian businesses are well placed to provide services and equipment for energy and infrastructure developments in Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s geographic position, including its seaports, provide further economic opportunities through regional integration. Weak infrastructure, skills shortages and the governance environment are, however, key constraints to growth and doing business in Bangladesh.

For more information on developing commercial links with Bangladesh, please see the Austrade website.

People to people links

People to people links are an important component of our bilateral relationship. Through business, trade, education, sport, culture and exchanges of expertise we enhance our mutual understanding of each other. The number of Bangladeshis settling permanently in Australia has increased significantly in recent years. The 2016 Census recorded 41,233 people from Bangladesh living in Australia, up from 27,808 recorded in the 2011 Census. In 2018, just under 7,000 Bangladeshi students enrolled to study in Australia (an increase of 26% from 2015).

Security cooperation

Australia and Bangladesh cooperate closely to promote peace and security, including to prevent irregular migration and to counter violent extremism. Our cooperation on transnational crime is underpinned by the Memorandum of Understanding between the Australian Federal Police and the Bangladesh National Police on Combating Transnational Crime and Developing Police Cooperation signed in September 2015.

Regional and global issues

Australia and Bangladesh work closely on a range of common strategic interests in regional and global fora, including as members of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. Bangladesh is the current Vice Chair (2019-21) and future Chair (2021-23) of IORA.

Bangladesh is a member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), of which Australia is now an observer, and plays an active role in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi‑Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), to promote trade, investment, tourism and regional prosperity and stability.

More broadly, Australia and Bangladesh play active roles in forums such as the Commonwealth, the World Trade Organisation and the UN. We have shared Commonwealth values including human rights, democracy, the rule of law, sustainable development environment gender equality and women’s empowerment, education and health; and international peace and security as set out in the Commonwealth Charter. Bangladesh has provided large numbers of personnel to UN peacekeeping operations around the world, including in Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, East Timor and current missions in Africa. In 2020, Bangladesh is in the top two troop contributing countries to peacekeeping operations around the world.

Bangladesh has shown generosity in hosting over one million Rohingya displaced from Myanmar. The ongoing humanitarian crises in Bangladesh and Myanmar are the largest and most complex in our region. Australia will continue to complement our humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya crisis with our efforts in advocating for accountability for the atrocities in Rakhine State; and working with Myanmar, Bangladesh and other regional and international partners to find a durable solution to the crisis.

Development assistance

Australia’s development partnership with Bangladesh is long-standing and we will continue to support Bangladesh through its response and recovery from COVID-19. COVID-19 has intensified pre-existing humanitarian and economic challenges, especially in Cox’s Bazar, where the local community hosts large numbers of Rohingya refugees in camps.

More information on Australia's development partnership to Bangladesh.

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