Drinking mate and eating alfajores, Argentina’s traditional pastries, the Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero formally opened the country’s new embassy in Bangladesh today, after cutting the ribbon and singing the Argentine national anthem together with Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s state minister of Foreign Relations.
Cafiero traveled to the inauguration in the capital, Dhaka, with a group of 34 government officials and Argentine businessmen, including the heads of food producers Arcor and Marolio, the National Yerba Mate Institute and River Plate Football Club.
“The love that Bangladesh expressed for Argentina [during the World Cup] shows that in these times of uncertainty for the world, the Global South has to strengthen its relations,” Cafiero said during the event. “And, in international forums, countries like ours have to raise their voices because we are generally unheard, that’s why we need to cooperate and act together.”
Alam, his Bangladeshi counterpart, said that opening the embassy “is not just a diplomatic gesture, but an emotional one as well: it is a reflection of the strong bond of friendship that exists between our peoples.”
Speaking side by side with Cafiero, he also emphasized how important Argentine football is for Bangladeshis: “While we idolize the greatest ever, Diego Maradona, our new generation has another hero, Leo Messi: what never changed is our love for the great football of Argentina.” Cafiero then proceeded to cut the ribbon.
The Argentine government hopes to develop a bilateral relationship with the South Asian country focused on international trade, diversifying Argentina’s export offering, which is currently centered on oils, grains, flours and soy pellets, to cater to growing demand from the Bangladeshi market.
The decision to open an embassy came as part of a strategy to build political and financial relations with South Asia: Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world, with over 170 million inhabitants.
Cafiero’s visit was the first by a South American Foreign Minister since the dictatorship closed the Argentine embassy in 1978.
Bangladesh came into the spotlight for many Argentines during the World Cup, when they saw viral social media videos showing Bangladeshi fans’ massive outpouring of love and support for Argentina’s national football team, the Albiceleste. In return, some fans waved Bangladeshi flags during the World Cup victory celebrations in Buenos Aires.
At today’s event, Bangladeshi musicians sang the Argentine football team’s World Cup anthem, “Muchachos,”in Bengali.
Bilateral trade is currently around US$900 million, mostly in Argentine exports to Bangladesh, but “there is still great potential for commercial expansion, considering Argentina is positioned as a strategic and reliable provider of food and energy”, according to Argentina’s Foreign Relations Ministry.
Bangladesh imports large quantities of agricultural commodities such as wheat, oil, sugar, lentils and grains, and expects a reliable supply of these and other products through direct buying as part of a state plan to subsidize food for 10 million people. The plan is co-ordinated by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), a state organism that imports and exports products and promotes sales and distribution of commodities.
Cafiero and Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen met after the public event to discuss further trade and cooperation projects. They also signed agreements on extending diplomatic visas, commerce, cooperation, and the opening of diplomatic and football academies. Furthermore, he is expected to meet on Thursday with Sheikh Hasina Wazed, Bangladesh’s prime minister.