Last updated in October 2016
Political relations between Germany and Bangladesh are friendly. In 1972, Germany was one of the first European countries to recognise Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan diplomatically. German reunification was warmly greeted by Bangladesh. Germany is not only respected as a longstanding and reliable partner in the development cooperation but is also seen as a vital trading partner and an important member of the European Union. Germany’s engagement in climate policy and the United Nations is keenly observed there.
Bilateral talks focus on improving minimum social standards in the textile industry, political dialogue between the government and the opposition and the human rights situation in Bangladesh. Since the creation of Bangladesh, numerous German non-governmental organisations and church-affiliated aid organisations have, together with their local partners, actively sought 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 favorably disposed towards the other country.
Germany is Bangladesh’s second largest export market after the United States. The volume of bilateral trade is continuously growing, reaching total of EUR 5.24 billion in 2015 (and EUR 2.72 billion in the first half of 2016). Bangladesh exported to Germany goods worth approximately EUR 4.6 billion (EUR 2.35 billion in the first half of 2016), while its imports from Germany amounted to only around EUR 0.64 billion (EUR 0.37 billion in the first half of 2016. Textiles account for over 90 per cent of German imports from Bangladesh. Other exports to Germany include frozen foods and leather goods. Germany’s main exports to Bangladesh are machinery (55 per cent of total exports), chemical products (20 per cent) and electrical goods (9 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.
A bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement has been in force since September 1986 and a double taxation agreement since 1993.
Bangladesh is one of the cooperation partners of German development cooperation, with which Germany works together closely on the basis of bilateral agreements. Bangladesh and Germany have agreed on the following three priority areas:
- renewable energy and energy efficiency
- good governance, the rule of law and human rights
- adapting to climate change in urban areas
The priority area good governance focuses in particular on improving working conditions and environmental standards in the textile industry. Given the importance of Bangladesh‘s export-oriented textile industry, this is a crucial factor in the country’s future development.
In addition, the churches in Germany and numerous non-governmental organisations are, along with their local partners, actively seeking to promote the country’s future development in various sectors of society, especially in rural areas.
With an annual per capita national income of USD 1,190 (World Bank figures for 2015), Bangladesh is one of the so-called lower middle income countries. Since development cooperation began in the 1970s up to the present, Germany has provided government funding worth a total of approximately EUR 2.6 billion for bilateral development projects in Bangladesh. On top of this, funding is made available by Germany through multilateral institutions (the European Union, the Asian Development Bank and United Nations special agencies such as the World Bank, the International Labour Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization). Private civil society organisations also receive public funding to conduct development projects.
At the most recent intergovernmental negotiations in 2016, Germany pledged additional funding worth a total of EUR 261.2 million to implement bilateral projects in Bangladesh.
The Goethe Institute (GI) in Bangladesh is the first stop for all those in the country who are interested in the German language and German culture. The GI branch in Dhaka was opened back in 1961, before Bangladesh gained independence. In recent years, the number of Bangladeshis attending its language courses has steadily increased and now stands at nearly 2,000 per year. The Goethe Institute’s library offers information on German literature, history and politics. The rooftop café and the auditorium are meeting places and forums 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 integrated into the curricula at all five PASCH schools in Bangladesh and a large number of 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 provides advice on scholarships and studying in Germany. Many Bangladeshi scientists, academics and students have already received part of their training in Germany and more than 200 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. In 2015 alone, approximately 500 new Bangladeshi students arrived in Germany to commence their studies.