Biden ‘committed to strengthening’ ties with Bangladesh

US president Joe Biden
Reuters file photo

US president Joe Biden and secretary Antony J Blinken are "committed to strengthening" the Dhaka-Washington relationship as the two countries address common challenges, says a senior US official.

The two countries address some of the most pressing regional and global challenges together, including the Rohingya humanitarian crisis and global challenge to tackle climate change, said the official.

"Bangladesh's impressive economic sector provides a solid platform on which to expand and deepen our relationship," said Marcia Bernicat, senior official for economic growth, energy and the environment.

She made the remarks while addressing virtual launching of the US-Bangladesh Business Council on Tuesday.

Bernicat, former US ambassador to Bangladesh, said the United States is proud of the partnership that they have built with the Bangladeshi people since Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led a proud and determined people to achieve their independence 50 years ago.

"How fitting that we honour that important anniversary today by launching the US-Bangladesh Business Council," she said.

She further said the US continues to look for ways to help make Bangladesh more attractive for investment, which in turn provides for the transparency and rule of law that all companies thrive in.   

Similarly, Bernicat said, they look forward to welcoming Bangladeshi investment into the United States from the country's increasingly internationally competitive companies.

She said president Biden has emphasised the challenge of climate change, stating that "the United States and the world face a profound climate crisis" and by placing climate change at the center of our foreign policy, diplomacy, and national security. 

The US official said Bangladesh's leadership in addressing climate change offers the United States - and the world - a great partner to tackle this climate crisis.

As president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the Vulnerable Twenty Group of Finance Ministers, Bangladesh has a leading voice and can make irreplaceable contributions toward a successful COP26, she said.

As a climate vulnerable country, Bangladesh will require significant climate adaptation and resilience, especially in view of its increasingly ambitious climate goals, Bernicat said.

The US companies are well placed to deliver many of the solutions Bangladesh will need to sustainably grow its economy, she said.

Bernicat said this is an exciting time in US-Bangladesh relations, and it is a particularly timely moment to inaugurate this organization to support closer US-Bangladesh economic cooperation.

The US-Bangladesh Business Council and the American private sector will be invaluable partners to help Bangladesh reach the ambitions laid out in its Bangladesh Vision 2041, including to become a high-income country, she said.

The two countries have already seen some of this cooperation in action. 

US companies operating in Bangladesh are bringing sustainable best practices and making unique contributions, such as local community economic development and innovative AI-powered flood alerts, she said. 

A US-Bangladesh partnership achieved Bangabandhu's extraordinary vision by launching Bangladesh into space with the Bangabandhu-1 satellite, Bernicat said.

Logo of US-Bangladesh Business Council
US Chamber website

And in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was Bangladeshi companies who stepped up to play a critical role in establishing more diverse and secure global supply chains, exporting valuable PPE to the United States, she recalled.

The launching featured inaugural remarks by prime minister Sheikh Hasina, as well as special addresses by prime minister's ICT affairs advisor Sajeeb Wazed Joy, commerce minister Tipu Munshi and prime minister's principal secretary Ahmad Kaikaus, US ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller and Bangladesh ambassador to USA M Shahidul Islam.

Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce said the United States is one of Bangladesh's most important trading partners, and over the past decade they have seen an impressive growth trajectory that they are confident will create new opportunities for US companies.

"We believe the Council will serve as the premier bridge between business and government leaders in both countries," said Myron Brilliant.

The Council will be led by Nisha Biswal, President of the US-Bangladesh Business Council and US Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President for South Asia, and Sidhanta Mehra, Director of the US-Bangladesh Business Council.

"Under the leadership of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has seen tremendous growth and so too has its partnership with the United States," said Biswal, who served as assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs under president Barack Obama.

She said the US-Bangladesh business Council will work to strengthen trade and investment between our two countries, promote transparency, inclusion and market-based reforms so that we can ensure that the coming decades continue to build prosperity and opportunity for the people of Bangladesh.

"The US-Bangladesh Business Council is a reflection for the need of a dedicated platform to understand and partner with the Bangladesh of the Future," said Jay R Pryor, vice president, business development for Chevron and the inaugural chair of the Council's board of directors.

Reflecting on Bangladesh's growth, Pryor noted its future will be "one that is sustainable, helps Bangladesh reach its economic development goals and by doing so, creates a business environment that empowers Bangladeshi women, enables small business growth, and strengthens communities through better access to healthcare, employment, and also energy.

US and Bangladeshi corporate leaders speaking at the launch event included Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, MetLife executive vice president and CFO John F McCallion, Walmart International president and CEO Judith McKenna, Excelerate Energy president and CEO Steven Kobos, bKash founder and CEO Kamal Quadir, GE South Asia president Mahesh Palashikar, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Sheikh Fazle Fahim, Visa senior vice president for global government engagement ambassador Demetrios Marantis, MetLife senior vice president for strategic growth markets in Asia Elena Butarova, and ShopUp co-founder and CEO Afeef Zubaer Zaman.