Local exporters yesterday urged Austria to ease rules for visa processing and accept Bangladeshi banks' letters of credit in order to expand bilateral trade.
They said the move would also enable Bangladeshi businessmen to frequently travel to the European country.
Currently, Bangladeshis have to obtain visa from Delhi in absence of an Austrian embassy in Dhaka.
“I want your (Austrian) resident mission in Dhaka as bilateral trade is growing,” said Mahbubur Rahman, president of the International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh.
He also said many Bangladeshi businessmen can't do business with Vienna as Austrian banks don't want to confirm Bangladesh's LCs.
So, Austria needs to relax the LC processes as bilateral trade is expanding every year, he told the “Bangladesh–Austria Economic and Trade Forum” at the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) in Dhaka.
With a mission of easing the LC rules, he will lead a delegation from the local banking sector to Vienna to participate in a global conference on LC and bank guarantee coming June, said Rahman.
The Business Initiative Leading Development, a public-private policy dialogue platform, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and the MCCI jointly organised the forum on the occasion of a visit of a 25-member Austrian business delegation. The balance of bilateral trade is in Austria's favour.
In 2016-17, Bangladesh imported goods worth $92.13 million and exported products valued $66.48 million, as per commerce ministry data.
Bangladesh's main exports to Austria are readymade garments and textile while the main imports are energy equipment, boiler machinery and chemicals.
Saiful Islam, president of the Leathergoods and Footwear Manufacturer and Exporter's Association of Bangladesh, echoed Rahman.
Every year, Bangladesh exports leather goods worth $3 million directly to Austria and if the LC issues are resolved, shipments will grow further, Islam said.
Regarding easing visa regulations, Tasvir Ul Islam, honorary consul of Austria in Bangladesh, said he received a lot of complaints from Bangladeshi businesspeople.
“We are trying to ease the visa rules for Bangladeshi travellers,” he said.
The consul said he would propose processing fingerprints and conducting preliminary investigations in Dhaka so that the Delhi office could issue visas easily and within a short time.
Barrister Tanjib-ul Alam tried to woo Austrians into investing in Bangladesh.
He said foreign investors' capital is secured by law as they have the leeway to repatriate full profit and capital while the government is bound to provide utility connections to their industrial and production units.
If any foreign investor is aggrieved for any reason, he can go to a local arbitration cell or an international arbitration cell to resolve the disputes, he said.
Syed Nasim Manzur, a former president of the MCCI, said a lot of people around the world don't know about Bangladesh and its business potentials.
Bangladesh is the second largest garment exporter in the world, Dhaka has the second largest number of Facebook users, and 12,000 businesses are running via Facebook in Bangladesh, he said.
Besides, Bangladesh manufactures shoes for globally renowned brands like Armani and the country is the largest consumer of Swiss Movenpick ice cream, Manzur said. Bangladesh also spends billions of dollars for tourism, especially for health tourism in India every year. “We need to show ourselves to the people of the world,” he added.
Shubhashish Bose, commerce secretary, said the ministry would amend the Companies Act 1994 to bring in provisions legalising both single director companies and the handing over of companies from one foreigner to another.
Bose invited Austrians to invest in the 100 special economic zones being developed by the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority across the country.
He also said foreign investors, like their local counterparts, enjoy zero-duty benefits on exports from Bangladesh under the European Union's “Everything but Arms” scheme.
Md Muntakim Ashraf, acting president of the FBCCI, and Oskar Andesner, head of Advantage Austria, signed an agreement to facilitate, strengthen and diversify cooperation between Bangladesh's apex trade body and the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber.
Mashiur Rahman, economic affairs adviser to the prime minister, also spoke.