Spain has good trade relation with Bangladesh and mostly in the RMG sector. Spain is the fourth-largest customer of Bangladesh and their yearly imports are worth around three billion euros. Despite the pandemic, Spanish buyers still supported our RMG sector by avoiding order cancel. Recently Textile Focus Coordinator, Pranta Biswas Covered interview of H. E. Mr. Francisco de Asís Benítez Salas, Ambassador of Spain to Bangladesh. Mr. Ambassador shared several issues that include trade relationships, Business opportunities, Industry’s best sustainable practices, challenges & future collaboration scopes between Bangladesh and Spain. Here is the summary of the conversation for our readers-
Textile Focus: What was your observation during the Pandemic period about Economic relations between Bangladesh and Spain?
H.E. Mr. Francisco de Asís Benítez Salas: The pandemic fallout has spared no one. Countries were caught by surprise and economies were severely affected. Spain, being a country in which tourism is the main industry accounting for 14% of the GDP, has suffered particularly. Economic and trade relations between Spain and Bangladesh are concentrated mainly in the RMG sector. We are the fourth largest customer of Bangladesh and our yearly imports are worth around three billion euros. Despite the downturn in our national economy and its consequences in domestic consumption, Spain has maintained its RMG imports and orders. Unlike others, not a single Spanish company cancelled any order and respected the contracts signed before the pandemic, including those referring to the suppliers of the suppliers. Bangladeshi manufacturers and exporters have kept their efficient and reliable supply and are continuing to do so. The pandemic period is not over yet and the Government of Bangladesh, together with the business community, is successfully dealing with this difficult situation. When most countries have seen negative economic growth figures, Bangladesh has kept the momentum of the national economy in positive figures. This is remarkable and has not gone unnoticed in Spain, thereby bringing good prospects for our economic and commercial relations once the situation goes back to normal.
Textile Focus: How can we expand trade relations with Spain more in the future?
H.E. Mr. Francisco de Asís Benítez Salas: Trade relations between Bangladesh and Spain are very good but are concentrated in a single sector. Although this is working very well for both countries there is, however, a lot of room for improvement and diversification. We are still far from reaching our full potential. Since independence, and in the span of only five decades, Bangladesh process of economic and social development has been absolutely incredible, going from a miracle to a model for many countries. This is the result of the Government’s very well-oriented and sensible policies, together with the hard work and commitment to development of the Bangladeshi people, the business community and leadership of H.E. The Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. In this ongoing process, the Spanish business sector can offer significant contributions, thereby helping to create jobs and generate prosperity. Many of our companies, big, medium sized and even small, are world leaders in different sectors: advanced technology, renewable energies, scientific agriculture and agro-food industry, agricultural equipment, railways, infrastructures, air traffic management, fisheries and fish farming, waste management and recycling, to name only a few sectors. We are continually trying to identify projects in different sectors in Bangladesh and informing Spanish companies about them. But we also inform Bangladeshi authorities and the business community about companies in Spain whose field of activity could be of interest for different projects. We want to keep the exchange of information both ways, for Spanish and Bangladeshi companies. Our aim is to encourage companies from Spain to come here and explore the Bangladeshi market. This is a long journey but the results, and the echo found in government authorities and Bangladeshi companies, is very encouraging and now we already have interesting and important initiatives under consideration.
Textile Focus: What is the challenges to boost up trade relation between two countries?
H.E. Mr. Francisco de Asís Benítez Salas: There is still a lack of mutual knowledge between Spain and Bangladesh. Our image of each other is, at times, centered on certain past stereotypes which are clouding reality. Bangladesh is a thriving country whose society and economy have undergone an impressive transformation towards progress and development. Spain is one of the main economies in the EU. Although there still remain some challenges in the business climate in Bangladesh to be addressed, in the EU group we have been working together with the Government of Bangladesh to facilitate foreign investments and businesses from EU countries.
Since the opening of our Embassy in Dhaka in 2008, we are working tirelessly to enhance a mutual perception that reflects this reality. Thus, and with the opening of the Embassy’s Commercial Office in 2018, our aim is to promote a steady flow of increased commercial exchanges, disseminate business opportunities in Bangladesh among Spanish companies and encourage companies from both countries to team up and explore them. These opportunities are there and Spanish companies of different sectors are in a position to provide first-quality services, state-of-the-art technology and products at very competitive prices. Our Commercial Office has been very active in providing information to companies from both countries and organizing meetings which are producing a number of expressions of interest, very often resulting in fruitful preliminary projects.
Textile Focus: What are your observations about Bangladesh Textile and Apparel Industry Growth?
H.E. Mr. Francisco de Asís Benítez Salas: I have been very impressed by the level, quality of the Bangladesh textile and apparel industry. When it comes to advanced textile factories, Bangladesh is number one in the world and this should be noticed and known. I have visited some factories and I have been able to see for myself the use of advanced technologies, the great improvements in waste reduction, efficient use of energy and cuts in emissions thus caring for the protection of the environment, the high level of design, the efficiency in logistics and, last but not least, the care and conditions provided to workers, specially to female workers.
Textile Focus: Any Message to the Industry?
H. E. Mr. Francisco de Asís Benítez Salas: Again, and particularly in the textile industry, Bangladesh has gone beyond miracle to become a model. My message to the industry is clear: first, congratulations on your incredible success; second, keep up the good work; third, continue caring for your workers. The industry has a key role in the country’s social development and has taken many people, but especially women, out of poverty. This needs to be recognized and commended.