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Naser I Hossain

According to the Global Food Security Index, Bangladesh falls in the “green zone” when it comes to food security and the country has been increasingly focusing on adequate supply to satisfy demand. To build additional food reserves, Sadhan Chandra Majumder, the country’s food minister, visited Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Thailand, the world’s third-largest rice exporter, exported around 450 million pounds of rice to Bangladesh in September of this year. It is expected that Thailand will aid Bangladesh to ensure food security and strengthen the bilateral ties in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

In the last 20 years, the value of bilateral trade has increased from $321 million to $907 million. The trade growth between the countries is noticeable. With Thailand and Bangladesh slowly overcoming the impact of the pandemic, trade between the two countries has grown by 40% in 2021 compared to the previous year.

Thailand has exported among other products rice, salt, sulfur, plastics, mineral fuels, mineral oils, electrical machinery, and equipment. These products are very crucial for both the production and industrialization of Bangladesh.

The World Bank has forecast growth of around 3% in the Thai economy this year with growth expected to be 4% in 2023. Thailand is eager to sign a free trade agreement with Bangladesh to give a boost to bilateral trade. As both countries can benefit from the relationship, there have been talks about doubling the current trade volume to $2 billion.

As the economy of Bangladesh has grown substantially over the last 20 years, Bangladesh has become a major contributor to the Thai medical tourism sector. About 4,300 Bangladeshi citizens contributed some $187 million to its economy in 2019. The contribution is expected to increase significantly. Millions of Thai tourists have made the trek to Bangladesh as well and the number is expected to grow.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a food crisis and Thailand is expected to help Bangladesh weather the worst of its effects.

Bangladesh is also suffering from a severe shortage of qualified healthcare providers. Thai healthcare workers are in high demand in the country and can provide Bangladesh with a much-needed influx of these workers.

Bangladesh, a fast-growing economy with a lot of potential, is moving towards becoming a developed country by 2041. The country is developing a lot of infrastructural projects to revolutionize its communication system. It is strategically located along the Indian Ocean, making up part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The country could potentially develop into a trading hub for South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Conversely, Thailand is in a good geographical location to be a distribution center for Bangladesh, offering links to other Asian countries by both land and sea.

Apart from economic benefits, a comprehensive relationship between the countries can open the door for new avenues of cooperation in vaccine production, healthcare, the blue economy, high-tech industries, automobile manufacturing, and shipbuilding.

Standing at this important juncture of their relationship, Bangladesh and Thailand should work together to cement a robust partnership with a clear vision for economic cooperation in the years to come.

Masfi-ul-Ashfaq Nibir is a Dhaka-based independent researcher and analyst. He often contributes to several newspapers and blogs. His research interests include foreign policy and diplomacy, international peace and conflict resolution, and political economy. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree from National University, Bangladesh.