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Bangladeshi Prawn Wins Italian Heart

Ambassador Nunziata sees more possibilities in bilateral relations

It’s more than trade and commercial transactions that, the Italian diplomat thinks, bilateral relations between Rome and Dhaka are meant for. Representing a country that has the legacy of modern civilization and industrialization, he has all praises for Bangladesh’s rise and potential. Ambassador Enrico Nunziata speaks of many future possibilities, in an exclusive interview, taken before the Covid-19 crisis, by Colors’ Ziaul Karim.

Ambassador Enrico Nunziata sees a new chapter of bilateral relations to begin soon. Photographs by Kazi Mukul.

When many countries were closing their borders, even before the coronavirus outbreak, to stop the inflow of foreign migrant workers, Italy may issue visa for seasonal workers for Bangladeshi workers to serve agriculture, tourism, and a few other sectors there. That will offer the expatriate Bangladeshi workers ‘new legal pathway’, according to Italian Ambassador to Bangladesh Enrico Nunziata. Already, Bangladeshi migrants remit 700 million euros a year through official channels. Some 5,000 Bangladesh are employed in Italy’s shipbuilding industry, and they might be able to utilize their skills in such industry back home in Bangladesh. At the same time, he underlines the importance of changing the country’s image as an exporter of low-cost labour.

Dwelling on Bangladeshi diaspora community in Italy, Ambassador Nunziata has observed that they are the best ambassadors for branding Bangladesh and for brining foreign investment for the country. ‘There are already some cases of joint ventures and they [some of the entrepreneurs] were born in Italy, not here. So, making their fortune also in Italy and making some own investments in Italy, they come here and they invest their money also here and they open new factories,’ he says of the potential of trade and investment cooperation between the two countries. More Italian companies may be interested in Bangladesh when economic zones would be ready and conditions would be better for so doing, he adds.

Italy exports much less than it imports from Bangladesh, goods worth 1.4 billion euros a year. The Italian envoy terms the relations more than what trade data show as he foresees ‘more possibilities’ in the future. ‘Of course, it’s not what could be, let’s say, in the future. I think that there are opportunities to expand these.’

For Bangladesh, there is more scope to export jute and jute products at a time use of plastic goods is increased being criticized or stopped in many countries especially Europe. ‘I think jute could be much more exported to Italy if there is more widespread use of jute. So jute should be more promoted and this could be also a possible source of export after garments [as the number one item],’ he says adding that more avenues could be explored. ‘I also see export of some seasonal fruits, too to Italy and I’m sure that when you eat mangoes or papaya in Italy, it comes from Bangladesh… I hope that in the future there will be an increase in exports of agricultural products.’

Ambassador Enrico Nunziata embodies Italian finesse in his dress sense.

Ambassador Nunziata himself is a big fan of Bangladeshi prawn. ‘The first thing I eat when I arrived in Bangladesh, was a giant prawn – it was at the residence. That was the first thing I tried and they probably cooked them in the Bangladeshi way – a big huge King prawn,’ he recalls his fond memory of the item that is exported to Europe. He also loves Bangladeshi sea fishes and curries made up of papaya and pulses and he was also impressed by daal with plain rice. He finds all those Bangladeshi dishes he takes healthy.

The Italian diplomat urges Bangladeshis to visit tourist spots in Italy, a country which has the highest number of world heritage sites in the world. ‘I mean civilization started in Greece, Italy, I mean in the Mediterranean, when also the Renaissance awareness happened. This is a huge heritage that is in our DNA,’ he points out. Italy is the birthplace of banking, knowledge of music, opera, and all that and the birthplace of modern knowledge. Apart from visiting Rome and Venice, he particularly names Amalfi Coast saying that many Bangladeshis should go there for having holidays to enjoy the beauty of the place.

Also, Enrico Nunziata has listed a number of areas for cooperation, such as scientific, technical, and defense cooperation that involve transfer of knowledge, and the blue economy, as discussed during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Italy. ‘There will be some opportunities in these sectors — in scientific and technological cooperation and also for electric vehicles. There are companies for dredging rivers for instance and they can be possibility joint ventures with Bangladeshi companies and Italian companies,’ he says.

A great fan of philosopher, essayist, fiction writer Umberto Eco, Enrico Nunziata once invited the polymath to an event which he couldn’t attend. But Nunziata later came to know that his physical conditions did not permit him to do so. He still laments that he couldn’t meet his favorite author in person.

Asked if Italy as one of the best manufacturers of leather products could help Bangladeshi leather entrepreneurs to excel in making such products, the diplomat mentions that ‘collaboration can be improved in a way ̶ by transferring knowledge, technology ̶ in order to develop a much more sophisticated local leather industry.’ For retaining and scaling up garment exports, he recommends diversification of products and improving branding in this regard.

Overall, the diplomat further emphasizes the promotion of country branding for trade, manpower exports, and attracting investment. ‘Bangladesh is not well known and the potentiality of the country is not well known abroad. So, we have to work on that,’ he says.

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