United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his conversation with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, sought favourable policy support from Bangladesh government to secure enabling business and investment climate for promoting more trade and investment between the two countries, a spokesperson of the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
They discussed issues related to Rohingya, covid cooperation, trade and investment and future cooperation during the conversation held on Tuesday (Washington time).
Dr Momen is currently visiting Washington DC on an official trip to reach out the new administration to ‘further enhance the level of cooperation’ between Bangladesh and the United States.
But due to the Covid protocol the US Secretary of State was not in a position to hold the meeting in person, but they had the conversation over telephone, the spokesperson said.
In the tele-conversation, held between the two in Washington, the foreign minister and the Secretary of State have agreed to work together to further strengthen bilateral relations and enhance cooperation on global issues.
During the meeting both sides expressed their optimism that the US companies would take advantage of the competitiveness of Bangladesh and invest in the country in much greater volume particularly in the areas of ICT, energy, pharmaceuticals and infrastructural development.
The foreign minister welcomed US investment in special economic zones and high-tech parks, underscoring the higher return of investment from Bangladesh as well as the good connectivity.
At the beginning of the discussion, US secretary of state expressed his regret that he could not physically meet foreign minister Dr Momen due to the Covid-19 health restrictions, and termed Bangladesh-US relations as a ‘growing and deep’ one.
Bangladesh foreign minister congratulated the new US administration for upholding the democratic process with a strong popular mandate, assuming once again America’s global leadership role.
He also appreciated the new US administration’s approach of handling the Covid pandemic challenges.
He stated that Bangladesh wants to elevate her relations with the US from partnership to a strategic level through maintaining a close and sustained contact with the US leadership, said the spokesperson.
“In this regard, he emphasised the exchange of visits at the highest political levels between the two countries”.
In this context, the Bangladesh foreign minister expressed hope that President Biden would visit Bangladesh soon.
He also invited Secretary of State Blinken to visit Bangladesh to see the socio-economic achievements and to join the celebration of the Birth Centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden Jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh.
“The secretary of state lauded Bangladesh’s “remarkable” economic performance, noted the existing strong economic partnership between two countries and stated that the US considers Bangladesh as a crucial economic and security partner in Indo-Pacific region.”
On tackling the Covid-19, the foreign minister briefed his counterpart on Bangladesh government’s effective handling of the pandemic including the ongoing the vaccination program that have reduced the number of infection and fatality on the one hand and kept the economy running.
He noted with satisfaction the excellent cooperation between the two countries in tackling Covid-19, as manifested through the US donation of high-quality ventilators and Bangladesh’s supply of 6.5 million PPE to the US in the initial phase of the pandemic.
The foreign minister said that Bangladesh is ready to supply medical instruments, like syringes.
The secretary of state appreciated Bangladesh’s remarkable success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic situation and hoped that both the countries would be able to find newer avenues for collaboration in the post Covid-19 era by mutual support and co-operation.
The foreign minister also requested the US secretary of state to consider providing assistance in water management.
Both sides agreed to work together on the promotion of democracy, good governance and human rights.
The Bangladesh foreign minister underscored the need for early deportation of Rashed Chowdhury, the self-confessed killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in the spirit of the shared values of establishing good governance, rule of law and justice.
Mr Momen said while his government was working with the US Department of Justice on this issue, support from the State Department on this important matter will be greatly appreciated.
On Rohingya issue, the foreign minister expressed his gratitude to the US government for its humanitarian and political support to Bangladesh to cope with the Rohingya exodus. In this regard, he emphasised that the US should take the lead and bring the international community together to put enough political pressure on Myanmar to create condition for the sustainable return of the Rohingya.
Thanking the US government for imposing sanctions on some individuals, he encouraged the US government to take more stringent measures like imposing economic sanction and withdrawing GSP facilities of Myanmar.
“Foreign Minister Dr Momen further recommended that the US may appoint a Special Envoy on Rohingya, in order to press Myanmar to create a conducive environment for the repatriation of the displaced Rohingyas to Myanmar.”
“Secretary Blinken appreciated Bangladesh for sheltering over one million Rohingya and showed his government’s full understanding of the tremendous pressure it has created on the government and the people of Bangladesh.”
Expressing concern on the disruption in the democratic process in Myanmar, Secretary Blinken assured that the US would continue its support for Bangladesh on Rohingya issue.
Foreign Minister Dr Momen welcomed the decision of the US to return to the Paris Climate Agreement.
Recalling his recent discussion with US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry, he also hoped that the new US administration with their climate agenda would be more actively engaged with climate vulnerable countries including Bangladesh to address the threats and challenges posed by impacts of climate change, including on issues like loss and damage.
He expressed optimism that the two sides would be able to work closely on climate change before and during the upcoming COP26, said the spokesperson.