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France and Bangladesh sign deal to provide loans, satellite technology

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wazed, left, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.
Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wazed, left, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. Copyright AP Photo/Michel Euler
Copyright AP Photo/Michel Euler
By AP
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French President Emmanuel Macron is on a two-day visit to Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, to bolster bilateral relations between the two countries.

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France's President Emmanuel Macron has overseen the signature of a deal to facilitate loans to Bangladesh aimed at infrastructure development, as well as a letter of intent to provide the South Asian country with an earth observation satellite system.

This came on Monday during Macron's two-day visit to Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, where he met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to bolster bilateral relations between the two countries.

Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Division signed the agreement with the French Development Agency.

A letter of intent was also signed to provide Bangladesh with an earth observation satellite system through cooperation between Bangladesh Satellite Company Limited, or BSCL, and Airbus Defence and Space SAS, France.

Macron and Hasina witnessed the deals signed at the prime minister’s office.

Details remained unclear, with Bangladesh authorities saying they are still ironing out the details.

"The satellite that we will buy will travel through the orbit around 350 miles above the earth," Shahjahan Mahmud, chairman of the state-run Bangladesh Satellite Company Ltd, was quoted as saying. "This will be used mainly to observe the status of our crops and the sea. Currently, we don’t have any monitoring capabilities across the vast sea."

Bangladesh bought its first geostationary communications and broadcasting satellite, named Bangabandhu Satellite-1 and launched in 2018, from France where it was manufactured by Thales Alenia Space.

Bangladeshi media positively reported Macron's visit, with many seeing it as a step to bring in investments from France in sectors where the United States, China and India are heavily engaged. Some even said the visit may have a political and strategic significance ahead of Bangladesh’s next general election expected in early January.

France is Bangladesh's fifth-largest trading partner in the fields of engineering, energy, aerospace and water sectors.

"We both hope that this new strategic move between Bangladesh and France will play an effective role in establishing regional and global stability and peace," Hasina said.

Hasina said both the leaders agreed to continue to work to ensure stability in the Asia-Pacific region as well as on projects involving impacts of climate change as Bangladesh is considered to be one of the worst victims of change of weather.

She said that France has reiterated its commitment to facilitate trade with the South Asian nation under the European Union's Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) scheme, which gives developing countries incentives to pursue sustainable development and good governance.

Experts say once Bangladesh joins the GSP+ scheme, it may lose some benefits it enjoys under the World Trade Organization’s protocol as a least developed country, as it may be fully upgraded into a developing nation status.

Bangladesh has long been buying aircraft from US company Boeing, but recently the government has signed an agreement with Airbus in which France has a major stake.

Looming election

Hasina has been under pressure lately with her seeking a fourth consecutive term as prime minister.

Bangladesh's main opposition party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, has threatened to boycott the election if Hasina does not resign and hand over power to a caretaker government to oversee the next election. Zia's party accused her of vote rigging in 2018.

The US has been pushing for a credible election and raised questions about human rights under Hasina's rule, threatening to impose visa sanctions if the next election isn't free and fair.

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Russia and China have pledged continued support to Hasina while neighboring India has maintained a cordial relationship with her.

Apart from investment and other partnerships with France, Marcon's visit is seen as a boost for Hasina in the run-up to the election.

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