The Japan External Trade Organisation’s (JETRO) country chief has advised Bangladesh to brand the country in Tokyo to draw investments.Kei Kawano told bdnews24.com that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 2014 visit to Dhaka had created a “big impact” in drawing Japanese investors to the country.But he said the country has a “poor image” and that stood in the way of attracting investments.“Very little good news from here reaches Japan,” he said, “Japanese are very conscious when they invest and where. We keep watching and unless we have confidence, we don’t invest in a country”.“You need to brand Bangladesh,” he told bdnews24.com, on the sidelines of the annual general meeting of Japan Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JBCCI) in Dhaka on Tuesday. He is the immediate past president of the JBCCI.Japan is the largest development partner of Bangladesh. The two countries embarked on a “comprehensive partnership” during Abe’s visit in September 2014 when a large business delegation that comprised all major Japanese companies accompanied him.Abe launched the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt (BIG-B) initiative, which he said would be the “centrepiece” of Japanese cooperation in Bangladesh.Under the BIG-B concept, he had also promised $6 billion credit for infrastructure development in which Japanese technology would be used.
The JETRO chief told bdnews24.com that after that visit they witnessed a spurt in Japanese investments in Bangladesh.“In 2015, 50 companies (Japanese) registered in Bangladesh,” he said, adding that currently over 200 companies were investing in Bangladesh.“But there is room for improvement,” he said. “In neighbouring Thailand about 9,000 Japanese companies have invested and 3,000 of them have invested in India”.“We have scope to invest in this country (Bangladesh) considering the population and the market size,” he said.“You need to improve the image and perception of the country. You need to promote vibrant Bangladesh to improve the perception”.“Bangladesh is not a brand. Bangladesh means only cheap labour and that is not a brand.“This country is very young and talented, but nobody knows that. People know the country suffers from poverty and politics. We need to change this poor image. We need to brand the country as a vibrant, young and happening country.”Kawano also suggested focusing on the “soft part” of infrastructure development apart from building bridges and power plant.One of them is free-trade agreement (FTA), he said.“In this aspect, Bangladesh is isolated in this region,” he said, adding that India has signed FTA with the ASEAN countries and the Japan.“We cannot use the opportunity (of FTA) here,” he said.