Bangladesh seeks the US to provide preferential market access, development funding

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    Dhaka has urged Washington to give preferential market access of Bangladeshi products to the US market and funding from its International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) for infrastructural development in Bangladesh. It simultaneously sought enhanced United States (US) investment and technology transfer in the manufacturing sector of Bangladesh.

    Bangladesh made the request during the 2nd High-Level Economic Consultation (HLEC) between the two countries held on Thursday, 02 June 2022 at the US Department of State in Washington D.C, according to a press release, issued by Bangladesh mission in Washington, received here today (03 June 2022).

    Bangladesh Prime Minister’s private industry and investment adviser Salman F. Rahman, MP, and US State Department Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Jose W. Fernandez co-chaired the daylong meeting.

    The Bangladesh delegation included State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr. Ahmad Kaikaus, Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, MP; Begum Shamsun Nahar, MP; M Shahidul Islam, Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States, and other senior officials.

    US Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Ambassador Kelly Keiderling, Assistant US Trade Representative Christopher Wilson, Deputy Under Secretary for International Affairs, Department of Labour Thea Lee and other senior officials of the relevant US departments were on the US side.

    During the meeting, Adviser Rahman underscored business-to-business and people-to-people contacts as the key elements for enhanced economic cooperation between the two countries.

    He reiterated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s earlier offer of dedicated Economic Zone for the US investors. The adviser also encouraged the US IT companies to invest in the Hi-Tech Parks taking advantage of the large pool of freelancers in Bangladesh.

    State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam stated that continuity of coherent policies under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was the key to Bangladesh’s tremendous socioeconomic progress during the past 13 years.

    Under Secretary Jose W. Fernandez applauded Bangladesh’s remarkable economic growth and tremendous success in COVID-19 vaccination.

    Recognizing the progress made in Bangladesh’s labour sector, Fernandez proposed for a regular consultation mechanism to remain engaged on the labour issues.

    In the 2nd session on the Labour issues, ILO Country Director in Bangladesh Tuomo Poutiainen made an independent presentation on the progress Bangladesh made in the labour sector.

    Worker’s rights Coordinator of the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) Laura Gutierrez, Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau and Bangladesh labour representative
    Kazi Rahima Akter attended this session.

    Both sides discussed a range of other issues including cooperation on climate change, renewable energy, maritime and blue economy, COVID-19, tourism and hospitality and civil aviation.

    Bangladesh side mentioned that the resumption of Dhaka-New York direct Biman flight is a priority for the government and drew US attention for expeditious action on the matter.

    They agreed to work in close cooperation to resume the flight as early as possible.
    Bangladesh and the US sides agreed on the importance of enhanced people-to-people contact in strengthening bilateral relations.

    In this regard, State Minister Alam drew the attention of the US side to expedite visa processing for the students and the businessmen from Bangladesh.
    Both sides agreed to hold the 3rd round of the consultation in 2023 in Dhaka at a mutually convenient time.

    A Joint Statement was issued at the end of the meeting which is as follow –

    1. Strengthening Business/Commercial Engagement

    The meeting participants celebrated the strong and growing economic partnership between the United States and Bangladesh, a highlight of our 50 years of bilateral relations.

    The United States highlighted Bangladesh’s evident potential to be a regional leader in digital trade and noted with appreciation steps taken by Bangladesh to adopt a transparent regulatory environment to secure broad-based foreign investment in its bourgeoning digital economy sector.

    Bangladesh welcomed investment from U.S. firms in Bangladesh, including in the renewable energy, telecommunications, and agricultural and food processing sectors and to its economic zones.

    Bangladesh warmly welcomed a U.S. concept of a U.S.-Bangladesh Women’s Council, which would enhance women’s employment, entrepreneurship, and access to educational opportunities in support of a more equitable future.

    Both sides decided to coordinate more on implementing existing transparent
    commercial policies and consistent enforcement of intellectual property rights in Bangladesh.

    2. Labor

    The United States acknowledged the Government of Bangladesh’s progress with respect to workers’ rights in Bangladesh in, for example, instituting safety reforms in the garment export sector, simplifying trade-union registration, developing publicly accessible trade-union database, establishment of helplines to receive complaints, digitalizing labor inspection and strengthening labor courts.

    The United States urged Bangladesh to take further steps to adhere to internationally recognized labor rights standards, including those developed by Bangladesh for its International Labor Organization (ILO) road map.

    Bangladesh expressed its commitment to swiftly pass necessary reforms and fully implement the four priority areas of the ILO road map.

    Bangladesh also expressed a commitment to address other areas of labor reform including improving workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining in export processing zones (EPZs) and gradually in other sectors across Bangladesh’s economy.

    Both sides decided that the effective implementation and enforcement of international labor standards can help the economies of both the countries recover from the pandemic, broaden economic gains, and unlock further economic potential with other trade partners by creating an attractive business environment.

    Bangladesh expressed interest in receiving U.S. development finance from DFC for a wide range of infrastructure opportunities. The United States affirmed it would consider Bangladesh’s request while emphasizing the need for Bangladesh to implement the ILO road map.

    3. Climate/Energy/Health

    The United States commended Bangladesh on its admirable response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bangladesh has fully vaccinated over 76 percent of its population and partially vaccinated over 99 percent of the eligible population. Bangladesh expressed gratitude for the over 64 million vaccine doses the United States donated, in partnership with COVAX, to support Bangladesh’s COVID-19 response efforts.

    The United States welcomed Bangladesh’s interest in the United States developed COVID-19 Prioritized Global Action Plan for Enhanced Engagement so that Bangladesh could share best practices with the world on its effective vaccination of population and Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN).

    The United States also highlighted Bangladesh’s role as a global climate leader.
    Both sides emphasized the importance of delivering on and strengthening existing commitments in the lead-up to COP 27.

    The United States encouraged Bangladesh to consider joining the Global Methane Pledge, urge major emitting countries to do more on climate initiatives, and continue outlining adaptation priorities.

    Bangladesh welcomed USAID’s climate support, including a review of embankments to assess the feasibility of nature-based solutions to protect critical biodiverse areas from degradation.

    Bangladesh encouraged U.S. companies to invest in clean energy to help Bangladesh advance on its COP nationally determined contribution targets for climate.

    4. Infrastructure/Trade

    Both countries share a common vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region with shared prosperity for all.

    The United States briefed Bangladesh on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), and Bangladesh welcomed additional information on the supply chain resilience and decarbonization pillars of the IPEF.

    Bangladesh also sought U.S. technical assistance to sustainably explore its ocean resources and further develop its blue economy in pursuit of environmental protection and economic prosperity.

    Bangladesh highlighted that restarting non-stop flights between New York City and Dhaka is a high priority. Both sides are committed to taking the next steps to move this forward at the earliest.

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