Australia as Bangladesh vow to boost trade as foreign ministers meet in Dhaka

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Australia and Bangladesh on Tuesday said that the two countries would work to expand trade and cooperation on areas including security and the Rohingya refugee crisis.

The statements came as Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong arrived in Bangladesh's capital on a two-day visit and held talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud.

In a briefing with Mahmud after the talks, Wong said that Australia was eager to support Bangladesh as it graduates from least developed country status at the World Trade Organization to developing in 2026.

“We share a region. We share an ocean and we share a future ... we are determined to do what we can to work with you and other partners to make sure the region is peaceful, stable and prosperous,” she said.

Wong’s visit, her first to Bangladesh, is aimed at enhancing Australia’s “engagement with the Indian Ocean region,” a press statement from the Australian Foreign Ministry said.

“Australia is working with Bangladesh to deepen our cooperation, including on trade and investment, and to find practical solutions to shared challenges such as climate change, regional maritime security and people smuggling,” the statement said.

Trade relations between Bangladesh and Australia are expanding. The two nations signed a Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement together in 2021, and two-way trade between Australia and Bangladesh now stands at more than $2.67 billion, up from about $200 million a decade back.

Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Mahmud called the growing trade volume “impressive” and said that the ministers had discussed a number of issues including human trafficking.

Wong said that the ongoing humanitarian crises in Bangladesh and Myanmar are the largest and most complex in the region. Australia often praises Bangladesh’s “generosity” in hosting more than 1 million Rohingya refugees displaced from Myanmar.

“Australia will continue to complement our humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya crisis with our efforts in advocating for accountability for the atrocities in Rakhine State; and working with Myanmar, Bangladesh and other regional and international partners to find a durable solution to the crisis,” the Australian Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

Wong is scheduled to visit the sprawling Rohingya refugees camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district before she flies to Singapore on Wednesday.