China and Bangladesh still have enormous room to further enhance their economic ties in areas of infrastructure, tourism and modern manufacturing, thanks to tangible development brought by the Belt and Road Initiative, said officials and academics from both sides.

As a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Bangladesh cannot only cooperate with China in various fields within the framework of the BRI, but can also seek new growth momentum from the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, said Lu Ming, Vice Dean at the Academy of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

“The game-changing BRI will have a healthy impact on the regional economy and cultural exchanges, providing more space for bilateral cooperation,” he said.

Bilateral trade jumped 16.8 percent year-on-year to $18.74 billion in 2018. China, in the meantime, remained the South Asian country’s largest trade partner by volume, according to data from the Beijing-based China Chamber of International Commerce.

China mainly ships diesel oil, cotton, chemicals, construction machinery, manufacturing equipment, steel, cement and household appliances to Bangladesh. Chinese-made passenger vehicles and trucks have also become popular in Bangladesh.

In addition to jute and garment products, Bangladesh exports a variety of goods to China, such as aquatic products, leather, tea, pottery and porcelain products.

Chinese companies had signed $45.9 billion worth of contracted projects in areas such as building bridges, power stations, hospitals and transportation facilities in Bangladesh by the end of 2018 and had completed $22.56 billion of them at that time, data from the Ministry of Commerce show.

Tipu Munshi, Commerce Minister of Bangladesh, said he hopes China will further expand its scale of investment in his country, especially in infrastructure, tourism and modern manufacturing.

Sang Baichuan, Director of the Institute of International Economy at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, agreed.

He said between 65-70 percent of Bangladesh’s population lives on agricultural incomes. However, the country’s young people prefer to seek job opportunities in modern manufacturing, not just limited to garment, textiles and ship-breaking sectors.

“China’s experience in deepening reform and opening-up can offer model ideas to Bangladesh,” he said.

Chen Wenling, Chief Economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges in Beijing, said Bangladesh’s ideal location allows it to function as a connecting corridor between the highly populated South Asia and semi-industrialised members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is an important player in trans regional integration.

Eager to help Bangladesh’s economy, China began implementing $10 billion worth of infrastructure projects in the country last year.

Under the joint efforts of the two governments and companies from both countries, a group of cooperation projects, including the Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone, Payra Power Plant, the 8th China-Bangladesh Friendship Bridge and the Bangladesh-China Exhibition Center, were launched. Total investment on the projects reached over $10 billion.