A joint statement by the Governments of the United States of America and Bangladesh Regarding the Vision for Advancing the U.S.-Bangladesh Economic Partnership in a virtual meeting on September 30, 2020
Date: 30 September 2020
A virtual meeting was convened by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Keith Krach, and Adviser for Private Industry and Investment to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Salman F. Rahman, MP, on September 30, 2020 with a view to developing a Vision for Advancing U.S.-Bangladesh Economic Partnership. The two high level dignitaries co-chaired the meeting.
1. Strong Economic Partnership, Stronger Ties
The meeting participants noted that the United States and Bangladesh share the common vision of a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific region with shared prosperity for all, and expressed hope that the two countries would continue to work together to realize this vision. The co-chairs recognized the need for bilateral cooperation to help overcome the global economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed their willingness to work together to advance the U.S.-Bangladesh Economic Partnership to facilitate sustainable supply chains and generate more employment contributing to stronger ties between the two friendly countries.
2. Strengthening Public Health Cooperation for a Safer Economy
The meeting participants recognized that fast economic recovery would necessitate new forms of protection for the workforces and populations, including women and children, and that these changes would require enhanced bilateral and global cooperation. The meeting participants underscored the importance of further enhancing their cooperation and capabilities for public health preparedness, and recommended that a Joint Public Health Experts Response Group be established by the two Governments that would meet urgently and then periodically to find ways for stronger bilateral, regional and global collaboration in terms of (i) Medical Education, (ii) Capacity Building, (iii) Primary Health Care, (iv) Adolescent Health etc. Both sides noted that the knowledge gaps related to COVID-19 may be minimized by sharing strategies using the Joint Public Health Experts Response Group.
3. Investment to Expand Demand and Restore Growth
Having reviewed its post-COVID-19 recovery strategy to expand domestic demand through public investments in infrastructure and service delivery, and to increase the rate of foreign direct investment into export diversifying sectors, the Bangladesh side indicated that U.S. investment and technology in its agro-processing sector, agricultural trade and jute sectors could be beneficial as it could promote food security and address environmental degradation caused by use of polyethylene-based items. The meeting participants observed that efforts should continue to support cooperation in the area of science and technology, including innovative plant breeding technologies, science-based standards, and the principles of risk analysis, to help meet the agricultural challenges and consumer needs of the 21st century.
As discussed in the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA) Council Meetings between the two Governments, Bangladesh side said that it would welcome investment from U.S. firms in its Economic Zones. The meeting underscored the need for implementing reforms for continued improvement of the investment climate for U.S.-sourced foreign direct investment, including initiating stakeholders consultations on ongoing reforms like competitive payment mechanism and insurance market liberalization, posting all new publicly available regulations and bills in English, and streamlining bureaucratic processes for repatriating profits. The meeting participants expressed hope that fair procurement processes in Bangladesh, in accordance with its Government Procurement Rules, would contribute to further expanding the U.S. trade and investment in Bangladesh. The meeting participants encouraged both the Governments to continue working together in this regard for their mutual benefits.
Consistent with the United States’ commitment to enhancing commercial ties for a free and open Indo-Pacific region the U.S. side described the role the USTDA and the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) could play in generating new economic activities as enablers for U.S. investment in and deals with Bangladesh. The Bangladesh side also welcomed the U.S. Government’s intention to open a Foreign Commercial Service Office in Dhaka, as well as the continuation of a USAID project that would contribute to further improving Bangladesh’s business environment including customs administration, agricultural and other areas in trade, risk management, regional connectivity, and awareness and transparency of trade policies and procedures.
The meeting participants noted the importance of sustainable infrastructure development, responsible and transparent financing practices, and sharing international best practices by all.
The meeting underscored the importance of effective import and export regimes to protect the consumers from risks resulting from falsified or unlicensed products.
The meeting participants noted that Bangladesh may continue to reform the labour sector including the Bangladesh Labour Act, Bangladesh Labour Rules and Export Processing Zones Act in alignment with ILO.
The two sides shared their mutual interest in stable bilateral trade in cotton and related products, and encouraged both the Governments to remain engaged on this issue.
4. Sound Digital Policies
The meeting participants recognized the importance of reliable, and secure internet that facilitates trade and communication. The meeting participants also recognized the importance of an innovative digital ecosystem to facilitate the cross-border flow of information and data based on secure and reliable networks.
The meeting participants encouraged both the Governments to have a senior level conversation regarding sharing information on telecommunications security as they move towards further expanding 4G connectivity and developing 5G networks and services.
The meeting participants appreciated U.S. technical assistance provided to Bangladesh on laws and policies related to these matters by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP).
5. Expanding Cooperation in Blue Economy
The U.S. side praised the Government of Bangladesh for hosting the Third Indian Ocean Rim Association Blue Economy Ministerial Conference in 2019. Both sides noted the importance of sound science, innovative management, effective enforcement, meaningful partnerships, and robust public participation, all being important elements of the blue economy and each contributing to the future prospects of the ocean. The participants expressed hope that both Governments would work together to develop an inclusive blue economy by sharing knowledge, data and ideas, building greater capacity, and enhancing professional collaboration. The Bangladesh side expressed hope that the U.S. Government would provide the Government of Bangladesh with fish detecting technology, either through satellite or SONAR, and transferring technology for fish/seafood processing etc.
The U.S. side congratulated the Government of Bangladesh for joining the international community as a Party to the Agreement on Port State Measures that would aid the United States, Bangladesh, and the other parties in deterring and eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
6. Energy and Ensuring Bangladesh’s Brighter Future
The meeting participants noted that the United States and Bangladesh have a strong history of cooperation in the energy sector and recognized the importance of energy security to promote regional connectivity, and power stability to further advance Bangladesh’s economic growth. The Bangladesh side welcomed the support from U.S. Departments of State, Energy, Commerce, as well as USAID and USTDA in this sector under the whole-of-government Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy) initiative. The meeting participants encouraged the relevant stakeholders of the two countries to collaborate and explore the possibility of further expanding the LNG footprint, as an efficient and clean primary fuel for Bangladesh’s power generation.
The meeting was appreciative of the participation of U.S. companies like Excelerate Energy and Cheniere Energy at the early stages of Bangladesh’s journey to the world of LNG. U.S. energy participants hoped that the cooperation in this regard between the two countries would continue to grow in future. The meeting participants noted that the first cargoes of U.S. produced LNG have already been exported to Bangladesh. The meeting participants also noted the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between GE and Bangladesh Power Development Board in 2018 for a 3600 MW Combined Cycle power plant in the southern part of Bangladesh – Moheshkhali Island – and expressed hope that the two sides would remain engaged in this regard.
The meeting discussed exploring the possibility of establishment of an energy sector dialogue to facilitate commercial engagement with U.S. energy companies, increase the possible use of U.S. products and services that support smarter, more efficient, and more resilient energy systems, and improve access to reliable, affordable energy to Bangladesh. The meeting discussed this potential platform being led by the U.S. Department of Commerce while on the Bangladesh side by the Ministry of Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the creation of the U.S.-Bangladesh Energy Industry Working Group as part of the Asia EDGE Energy Industry Working Group Network, which creates a “one stop shop” for the U.S. private sector to actively participate in Asia EDGE interagency programs and connect to regional market opportunities.
Recognizing the importance of renewable energy technologies, the Bangladesh side noted that USAID, in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), has completed NREL’s wind resources study that would help advance Bangladesh’s goal of 10 percent electricity produced from renewable energy, in addition to the planned $15 million USAID Asia EDGE activity to support Bangladesh in deploying advanced energy systems, mobilizing private sector investments in energy, and strengthening regional power markets. The Bangladesh side also noted that the U.S. Department of State announced support for a Battery Storage Development & Adoption Program to assess the value of adding storage to Bangladesh’s electricity grids, and the South Asia Carbon Capture Project to help reduce environmental impacts of fossil fuel consumption.
7. Enhancing Connectivity
The meeting participants noted with appreciation that the Governments of the United States and Bangladesh have signed the U.S.-Bangladesh Open Skies Air Transport Agreement. The Bangladesh side expressed hope that the continued positive engagement between the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) would help Bangladesh’s efforts to regain Category 1 status under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program, which would signify an important milestone in the process for Biman Bangladesh Airlines to resume non-stop services to the United States. This joint engagement will support CAAB’s efforts to establish and implement an effective aviation safety oversight system in compliance with safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Bangladesh side said that its Government is interested to have Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport designated as a last point of departure airport by the Transportation Security Administration. The meeting expressed optimism that both the Governments would continue to work together to achieve these goals and thereby improve connectivity between the two countries.
The meeting noted with satisfaction the long-standing partnership between Biman Bangladesh Airlines (Biman), the national flag carrier of Bangladesh, and Boeing, and applauded the completion of delivery of 10 Boeing commercial aircrafts to Biman following a 2008 deal.
The Bangladesh side shared that the Government has reviewed its Delta 2100 Plan and would procure high quality dredgers of appropriate categories for inland waterways management in the country. Recognizing Bangladesh’s efforts, USTDA announced a reverse trade mission that will bring a delegation of public and private sector Bangladeshi officials to the United States in 2021 to explore U.S. best practices and advanced technologies for dredging. The Bangladesh side expressed hope that well-regarded U.S. companies would continue to participate in the international tender process, where a level-playing field for all is ensured by the Government.
The Bangladesh side described the steps taken by the Government of Bangladesh to reduce congestion and improve operations at the Chittagong port, and informed that the Government of Bangladesh had signed a memorandum of understanding on a techno-economic feasibility study by U.S.-based container logistics firm EagleRail to carry out a pilot project of its automated overhead container handling system at Chittagong Port to ease congestion, reduce emissions, and enhance the capacity of Bangladesh’s major port. The findings of the feasibility study would be placed in a National Workshop.
The U.S. side was highly appreciative of the Government of Bangladesh for concluding a financing agreement that enables its Ministry of Finance to purchase 70 locomotives for Bangladesh Railway for use at routes of both East and West zones, where meter gauge lines exist. A U.S. company, Progress Rail, is to provide design services and critical components for the $239 million project primed to enhance regional connectivity among Bangladesh and its neighbors in the Indo-Pacific region. The meeting noted that USTDA announced plans to launch a training program for railway engineers from Bangladesh Railway, in conjunction with leading U.S. railway experts and suppliers of railway equipment, to further advance the development of a safe and efficient railway system in Bangladesh.
8. Building a Better Future
In light of COVID-19, the meeting participants noted that it was important for Bangladesh to further enhance its resilience to withstand future economic shocks. This could be done through a more solid economic base ensuring greater participation of people in economic activities. The participants noted that, through greater cooperation, they could help to ensure a more sustainable future for the next generations, with the goal of establishing better public financial management; safeguarding the rights of workers; providing continued support for vulnerable Bangladeshi communities affected by the Rohingya crisis; and coordinating to improve natural resource management by supporting water and energy security, sustainable trade and investment, agriculture, forestry and fishing.
The participants noted with appreciation the increased senior level engagement between the two Governments and beyond in the recent past and particularly the warm exchanges between U.S. President Donald J Trump and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the “Mujib Year” (March 17, 2020 to March 26, 2021) to celebrate the 100th Birth Anniversary of Father of the Nation of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The participants expressed optimism that the two friendly Governments would continue to engage at political and senior official levels to further deepen the cooperation and consolidate the ties, and devise ways and means to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 and restore impressive economic growth rates.
The virtual meeting was held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere, and the participants concluded by expressing a great deal of optimism that both the Governments would remain meaningfully engaged through different institutional mechanisms and beyond and take concrete actions to realize this Vision for Advancing the U.S.-Bangladesh Economic Partnership in the coming days.