Mexico to Open Consulate in Dhaka
By IMTIAZ AHMED
DHAKA, Bangladesh — The main takeaway at last month’s eighth edition of India’s Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi (that South Asian nation’s main international forum for geopolitical and economic diplomacy) was the growing gridlock between most Western nations’ unflinching condemnation of Russia’s ongoing invasion and occupation of Ukraine and the so-called Global South’s (composed mostly of left-leaning developing countries led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi) mounting disinterest in the yearlong conflict and its refusal to reprimand Moscow for its blatant violation of international law.
The deadlock on the issue was so radical that the three-day Raisina summit ended without a joint communique, with the participating countries so sharply divided over the war in Ukraine that they could not even sign a common statement on other pressing issues.
But buried under the Raisina Dialogue’s otherwise-dominating theme of the developed world’s defense of Kyiv and the emerging world’s seeming indifference to the full-scale invasion of Europe’s second-largest nation was an important tidbit of Mexican-Asian relations that could significantly impact Mexico’s commercial and political relations with the region.
While in New Delhi, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard met with his Bangladeshi counterpart, Foreign Minister Abdul Momen, and the two jointly announced the opening of a Mexican embassy in Bangladesh slated for the end of this year.
With a population of over 170 million, Bangladesh is a major player in the central Asian region, and Ebrard said that Mexico is interested in boosting its commercial and economic cooperation with Bangladesh, particularly in the pharmaceutical, agribusiness and technology sectors.
And while combined two-way trade is still extremely limited — less than $650 million a year, almost entirely composed of Bangladeshi exports to Mexico — both countries see huge potentials for expansion in a number of value-added industries, including automotive parts, chemical biologics and financial technologies.
Last month, a Mexican commercial delegation attended a three-day Bangladesh Business Summit in Dhaka, setting the framework for new bilateral trade and investment ventures.
“The fact that Mexico has announced the opening of an embassy in Bangladesh is further evidence of Mexico’s interest in our country and its growing economy,” Dhaka’s ambassador to Mexico Abida Islam told Pulse News Mexico in a telephone interview.
“This move indicates that Mexico is looking to establish stronger ties with Bangladesh, and the new embassy is also likely to provide a platform for further dialogue and collaboration between the two nations.”
Islam went on to say that “the opening of the embassy and other recent developments could signal a new era of cooperation between the two countries.”
The ambassador also said that Bangladesh has made significant progress in terms of socioeconomic growth and infrastructure development in recent years, transforming into a middle-income country, the second-largest economy in South Asia and 35th in the world in nominal terms and 25th in terms of purchasing-power parity.
With the opening of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge in 2022, linking Bangladesh’s less-developed southwest with its more-industrialized northern and eastern regions, and the near-completion of the $1.1 billion, 9-kilometer Karnaphuli Tunnel underwater expressway that will reduce traffic congestion around the Chittagong port, Islam said that Bangladesh has demonstrated its commitment to infrastructure development.
Dhaka’s efforts to improve roads and highways and the construction of new hotels and resorts also show that Bangladesh is taking steps to promote tourism and attract foreign investment, she said.
Islam said that there has recent interest by Mexican companies in investing in Bangladesh.
According to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA), Mexican companies have already expressed interest in several sectors in Bangladesh, including textile and apparel, information technology and energy.
Bangladesh’s exports to Mexico have been steadily increasing since the opening of its diplomatic mission in Mexico in 2012.
Last year alone, combined binational trade jumped by a whopping 45 percent compared to the previous year to more than $640 million.
This trend also reflects the success of Bangladesh’s efforts to diversify its export basket and expand its reach in global markets, moving away from its dependence on the textile sector.
Mexican companies are also currently testing the waters for investment in Bangladesh, both in the garment and pharmaceutical sectors.
Mexican sportswear giant Coppel is pioneering cooperation with Bangladeshi manufacturers, and the Mexican pharmaceutical company Avimex has recently entered the Bangladesh market.
And on the political front, Bangladesh and Mexico share a lot of common views, including within the aforementioned Global South forum, to which Mexico is a major partner.
As for Bangladesh’s position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Islam toed the line with a diplomatic noncommittal statement that was ambivalent regarding the illegality of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and focused instead on the economic consequences of the conflict.
Like the other Global South nations, both Bangladesh and Mexico have remained conspicuous in their refusal to blame Russia, and Islam clearly echoed her government’s sentiments when asked about the issue.
“The war has created a sense of insecurity in the world leading to price hikes of essential commodities,” she said.
“The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had a significant impact on the global economy, including Mexico. The impact on the Mexican economy can be seen in several areas, including commodity prices, trade and daily life.”
Islam pointed out that sanctions imposed on the production of raw materials have caused international prices to surge, which has affected Mexico’s economy negatively.
“Metals, such as nickel, aluminum and gold, as well as grains, have been particularly affected,” she said.
“Additionally, Mexico could experience a short-term shortage of fertilizers due to Russia’s significant exports of fertilizers and the sanctions imposed on their production, negatively affecting the country’s agriculture industry, which is a significant contributor to Mexico’s economy.”
And of course, the war has impacted global oil prices and other industries, she added.