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Hasina Govt expects shift in new US-admin approach to Bangladesh

Eastern times, Special Correspondent, Dhaka, 15 November: Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina sitting beside then US Vice President Joe Biden during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City

The Bangladesh government is expecting a major change in approach of the new government of the US president-elect Joe Biden in its engagements with Bangladesh subject to the final outcome of the court battles on counting ballots.

‘Relations between any two countries do not change overnight. But we may see changes in approach of the new US administration awaiting the final outcome of the election of the country,’ foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told this newspaper at his office on Thursday.

Bangladesh would continue to expect US support for sustainable repatriation of 1.2 million Rohingya people to Myanmar, maintain consistency in export to the US markets and attract investment from the country, he said.

Responding to a question on US requests for engaging in Indo-Pacific strategy backed by India, Japan and Australia, the foreign secretary said the Bangladesh government may consider the matter if the IPS mechanism supports Bangladesh’s need for economic prosperity.

A change from transactional approach of the incumbent Republican administration to a rights-based approach on maintaining some values, democratic practices and multilateralism on matters including climate change by the new Democratic administration is likely, said another senior Bangladeshi diplomat.

The US side may continue to push for enforcement of rights issues including making industries free from child labour, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and stopping extrajudicial killing, officials say.

The US side would also continue efforts for bolstering security partnership, defence cooperation and initiatives for countering terrorism and violent extremism amid the growing influence of China across the region and conflict between India and China, said an American diplomat in Dhaka.

The US has launched a negotiation with Bangladesh in 2019 for signing two foundational defence instruments – General Security of Military Information Agreement on protecting secrecy of classified military information and Acquisition and Cross Servicing of Agreement on mutual sharing of supplies and services by the security forces of the two countries.

In his last engagement with Bangladesh on October 6, US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment Keith Krach underscored the need for implementing reforms for continued improvement of the investment climate for US-sourced foreign direct investment, including initiating stakeholders consultations on ongoing reforms like competitive payment mechanism and insurance market liberalisation, fair procurement processes in Bangladesh and streamlining bureaucratic processes for repatriating profits.

Bangladesh has maintained a two-way trade worth $9.0 billion in total two-way goods trade in2019, according to the website of the US trade representative’s office.

Bangladesh exports goods totalled $6.7 billion while imports product totalled $2.3 billion.

The US goods trade deficit with Bangladesh was $4.3 billion in 2019.

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