In the post-COVID-19 economic recovery, mutual cooperation and collective efforts are essential to attain shared prosperity, and Bangladesh will provide its wholehearted support to expand its economic partnership with the United States, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
She expressed her hope that the US-Bangladesh Business Council would convince the US government to undertake economic and trade policies that were favourable to Bangladesh.
The US-Bangladesh Business Council may continue to play a catalytic role in raising the present annual bilateral trade of $9.0 billion to higher figures, she said.
“We consider this council to be an important partner in fulfilling our core undertaking of improving our people’s lives,” Hasina said in her keynote speech at the Executive Business Roundtable organised by the council in New York on September 21.
The Bangladesh-US relationship is based on common values and shared interests, which is reflected in the expanding overall business relations between the two nations, she said.
“Our trade relations can be further strengthened with duty free access and other trade privileges in the US market,” Hasina said, adding that Bangladesh is ready to commence Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the US at an appropriate time.
Bangladesh, having the most liberal investment policy in South Asia, with foreign investment protected by parliament acts and bilateral treaties, is looking forward to US investment in renewable energy, she said, reports bdnews24.com.
“Bangladesh recognises the US energy sector’s cooperation and investment, which has contributed to building our power generation capacity, which is now over 25,000MW.”
The ICT sector in Bangladesh is also growing fast now, exporting over a billion dollars in exports to 60 countries, with the US being the top destination, she said.
“The ICT industry is expected to grow nearly five-fold to reach the $5.0 billion mark by 2025. With more than 600,000 free-lance IT professionals, Bangladesh is the right place to invest in the ICT sector,” Hasina said.
Rapid urbanisation, increasing consumption of electricity, rapid growth of the middle class and growing connectivity with massive regional market makes Bangladesh an attractive investment destination, she said.
“Bangladesh is ready to offer one of its 100 Economic Zones exclusively for American companies, and also invites US investment in its 28 High-Tech Parks,” the prime minister said in her speech.
NURTURE WOMEN LED ORGANISATIONS: HASINA
Women-led organisations need to be nurtured and supported with sufficient political and financial backing, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The UN has an important role in supporting such efforts, she said at the High-Level Meeting on Women Leaders convened by the president of the UN General Assembly on September 21.
“The impacts of COVID have been especially hard for women. Unpaid care work has increased. Gender-based violence has risen. UNICEF anticipates an additional 10 million child marriages before the end of this decade,” she said.
Hasina commended the UNGA for founding the Advisory Board on Gender Equality. “This now needs to be localised. We need gender champions at every level, especially at the grassroots level, and we can lead by example,” she said.
The prime minister highlighted Bangladesh’s emphasis on empowering women in her statement.
“In the political empowerment of women, Bangladesh ranks seventh in the world. More women are joining the workforce. Almost 70 per cent of healthcare workers are women, and they are on the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic. More than 80 per cent of our RMG workers are women.”
Women constitute the majority of workers in the informal economy and many of them lost their jobs and income during the pandemic, she said.
“Two million migrant workers, including women, have returned home. Our hard-earned progress could be lost. We need to act urgently to stop this. For that, we must place women at the front and centre of COVID recovery.”
Hasina invited the UNGA president to convene a leaders’ summit to reinforce a common agenda for gender equality, where all leaders should join and present concrete commitments for advancing gender equality.