Last updated in March 2014
Political relations between Germany and Bangladesh are amicable. Germany was one of the first European countries to officially recognise Bangladesh following independence from Pakistan in 1972. German reunification was warmly greeted by Bangladesh. Germany enjoys respect not only as a longstanding and reliable partner in development cooperation but also as a trading partner and an important member of the European Union. Germany’s engagement in climate policy and the United Nations is being keenly observed. Germany watched the latest parliamentary elections on 5 January 2014 with concern. The Federal Government appealed to the government of Bangladesh to seek dialogue with the opposition and, by acting in concert, smooth the way for swift, democratic and, in particular, inclusive elections.
In recent years, there have been regular mutual visits between the two countries. Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle visited Dhaka from 23 to 24 June 2012, his trip centring on celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and efforts to further intensify bilateral trade. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Berlin from 23 to 25 October 2011, meeting with the Federal Chancellor, the Federal Foreign Minister and the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. Federal President Christian Wulff paid an official visit to Dhaka from 28 to 30 November 2011, holding talks with President Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni as well as with opposition leader Khaleda Zia and representatives of various religious communities and civil society. Members of the German Bundestag visit Bangladesh on a regular basis.
Since the creation of Bangladesh, numerous German non-governmental organisations and aid organisations affiliated to the churches in Germany have, together with their local partners, made determined efforts to promote the country’s social and economic development. Thanks to their commitment and a vigorous information campaign in Germany and Bangladesh, many people on both sides are favourably disposed towards and well informed about the other country. The Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation are active in Bangladesh.
Germany is Bangladesh’s second largest export market after the United States. The volume of bilateral trade is continuously growing, reaching USD 4.87 billion in 2013. Bangladesh exported to Germany goods worth approximately USD 4.3 billion. By contrast, the country’s imports from Germany amounted to a mere USD 0.57 billion. Textiles account for 94 per cent of German imports from Bangladesh, with leather goods (2.3 per cent) and food (2 per cent) in distant second and third places. Germany’s main exports to Bangladesh are machinery (48 per cent), chemical products (22 per cent) and electrical goods (10 per cent). German shipping companies have had ships built in Bangladesh for a number of years now.
German companies are investing in Bangladesh, particularly in the textile industry, transport and logistics and building materials sectors.
The Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BGCCI) has more than 500 member companies, making it the largest bilateral chamber in Bangladesh. It is on course for admission to the German Chamber Network of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK).
A bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement has been in force since September 1986 and a double taxation agreement since 1993.
With an annual per capita national income of approximately USD 846 (World Bank figures for 2013), Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest countries and a priority country of German development cooperation. From its creation as a nation in 1972 up to the end of 2013, Bangladesh has received some EUR 2.2 billion in development cooperation from Germany. On top of this is the funding made available by Germany through non-governmental organisations (e.g. church-affiliated institutions and private donors) and multilateral organisations (the European Union, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the UN family).
As part of their long-term bilateral development cooperation, Bangladesh and Germany have designated the following three areas as priorities:
- energy efficiency and renewables
- good governance, the rule of law and human rights
- adapting to climate change in urban areas
For the period 2012/2013, Germany pledged Bangladesh a total of EUR 94 million to implement bilateral projects, including for the first time a favourable-term development loan worth EUR 45 million for an energy supply project.
While government development cooperation concentrates on the above-mentioned priority areas, the numerous German non-governmental organisations active in Bangladesh are focusing their attention on fighting poverty and helping marginalised sections of the country’s rural population.
The Goethe Institute in Bangladesh, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in October 2011, is the first stop for all those in the country who are interested in the German language and German culture. Every year, well over 1,000 Bangladeshis attend its language courses. The Goethe Institute’s library offers information on German literature, history and politics. The rooftop café, along with the auditorium, is a meeting place and forum for young intellectuals, artists and representatives of civil society. The events organised by the Goethe Institute range from exhibitions to musical and literary offerings to film festivals and DJ appearances. Since January 2010, Bangladeshi teachers have been trained as German teachers under Germany’s Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH). German instruction has been introduced at the five PASCH schools in Bangladesh, in some cases as an extra-curricular subject, and the first students have now had their proficiency in German certified.
To promote academic exchange between Germany and Bangladesh, every year the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and other organisations award numerous scholarships to Bangladeshi students and young scientists and academics. The DAAD Information Point offers advice on applying for scholarships and studying in Germany, as does the DAAD academic teacher (the first in Bangladesh), who commenced work at the long-established Dhaka University in early October 2013. Her teaching will initially focus on German as a foreign language. Many Bangladeshi scientists, academics and students have already received part of their training in Germany and more than 400 of them are members of alumni associations and users of the Alumniportal Deutschland network.
In the last 18 months, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of Bangladeshi students applying to study in Germany, with the upward trend continuing in the coming semesters. In 2012, well over 1,000 young Bangladeshis applied for a visa to study in Germany and in 2013 the number had topped 3,000.