Dhaka – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the US administration to allow duty and quota-free access of Bangladeshi garment products to help establish a modern society in the South Asian country.
Hasina, now in New York to attend the 71st United Nations General Assembly, also asked the US businesses to invest more in Bangladesh to further strengthen the friendship between the two countries.
“As Bangladesh strives to achieve its aspired goals, I urge you to come forth and partner with us in this journey of mutual profits and prosperity … importantly, such a lucrative partnership would also strengthen our two countries’ friendship,” she said.
Hasina was speaking before the audience at the luncheon meeting hosted by the Business Council of International Understanding at Hotel Waldorf Astoria on Monday.
She said Bangladesh has the most liberal investment policy in South Asia.
It includes protection of foreign investment by law; generous tax holiday; concessionary duty on import of machinery; remittances of royalty; 100 percent foreign equity; unrestricted exit policy; full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit; to name a few, the Prime Minister added.
She said around 100 Exclusive Economic Zones are being established with a dozen ready to receive foreign private labor intensive industries.
Bangladesh and the USA have signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty and the Convention on Avoidance of Double Taxation, she said, according to state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency.
Hasina listed the areas where US investment is possible. The sectors include power, energy, especially renewable and green energy; shipbuilding and recycling; automobile and light engineering; chemical fertilizers; agro-processing; pharmaceuticals; ceramic and plastic goods; ICT; marine resources extraction’ tourism; medical equipments; telecommunications and knowledge based high tech industries.
She said many of these products would find duty and quota free access to all the 52 countries giving Bangladesh these privileges.
Hasina said that it would be vital for the USA to give Bangladesh apparel duty and quota free access to its market in a bid to expand Bangladesh apparel industry, employ and empower more girls and help establish a modern society.
“USA would then be as fair as the 52 other countries, like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, Japan, India and the European Union that gives Bangladesh duty and quota-free access to their markets,” she said.
The Prime Minister said the relationship between the USA and Bangladesh has been moving to higher place since she became Prime Minister in 2009.
American companies are still the largest investors. Last year, they invested half a billion or 25 percent of the total FDI to Bangladesh, she said.
In trade, the US is still the largest single country destination of Bangladeshi products.
“Our two countries’ bilateral trade reached US $ 7 billion last year. It could be more if the high tariffs and compliance issues on Bangladeshi apparel to US market were removed,” the prime minister said.
It should be as Bangladesh is an LDC adding that as many other LDCs do not have these protectionist measures imposed on them by USA.
Instead, she said that the US in 2013 sadly suspended its GSP privileges to Bangladesh terming it as an unkind act. Even sadder was when US in 2015 restored its GSP privileges to all South Asian countries, except Bangladesh.
She said since Bangladesh’s main export to the USA is apparel, this industry employs 4 million workers, of which 90 percent are girls from poor families. Their earnings have empowered them. Their contributions now provide better nutritional food, allow siblings to go to schools, and give them a respected voice at home. Their empowerment is also helping reduce poverty, control population growth and increase literacy, she added.
“Significantly, this trend is supporting our fight against extremism and terrorism by transforming our society into a progressive one. For these efforts to succeed, it is vital for the US to give Bangladesh apparel duty and quota free access to its market,” the prime minister said.
Last year, Hasina said the total FDI into Bangladesh crossed two billion dollars for the first time and this indicates the confidence of foreign investors in Bangladesh, on its macroeconomic and political stability, and on its physical infrastructure development.
“Their confidence is also on the rise because of Bangladesh’s huge potentials and energized drive to become a middle income country by 2021, and a developed one by 2041.”
PM’s ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, State Minster for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Mohammad Ziauddin, PM’s Principal Secretary Md Abul Kalam Azad, NBR Chairman Md Nojibur Rahman, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations Masud Bin Momen, FBCCI President Abdul Matlub Ahmed and First Vice President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin were present, among others.
Assistant Secretary of US Department of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Deshai Biswal, business leaders from different US companies including American Tower Corporation, Walmart, MetLife, Boeing, Chevron Corporation, GE, Coca Cola attended the meeting.