The US wants Bangladesh to be its key Indo-Pacific partner, considering it a development success story that also serves as a bridge for commerce and an anchor for regional stability, US officials have said.
"The United States and Bangladesh have a long, shared history of cooperation, and we continue to support a tolerant, democratic Bangladesh that serves as a bridge for commerce and an anchor for stability and prosperity in the region," said Laura Stone, US deputy assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
She said Bangladesh is strategically located at a crossroads between South and Southeast Asia, and plays an important role in the US Indo-Pacific vision. The country also has a good workforce, manufacture base and holds enormous potential for development.
"With a dynamic and, as you know, fast-growing economy in normal times, Bangladesh is a development success story. Future success will be fuelled by deepening its democratic institutions and governing structures," Stone said at a special virtual press briefing on Tuesday night.
JoAnne Wagner, deputy chief of mission, US Embassy in Dhaka, also spoke at the briefing where they stressed that Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) principles are based on free navigation and trade, good governance, rule of law, transparency, and not to counter the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
They spoke of huge investment opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly Bangladesh, in energy, infrastructure, supply chain and digital economy.
Stone said even during the pandemic, the US-Bangladesh relationship is growing, noting that US clothing giant Hanes is buying PPEs manufactured by Bangladeshi company Beximco.
Stating that the coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the common interest in working together with Bangladesh and other partners for economic recovery, she said this is going to be a big focus as they go forward with Bangladesh.
The US is also ready to support the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and Bangladesh in South Asia's regional integration and connectivity, she said.
Stone said the Asian Development Bank estimates that the Indo-Pacific region is going to need 26 trillion USD investment by 2030 in order to properly and appropriately develop its infrastructure, but no one country can provide such funding. So, the private sector has to play a very key role in that.
"Through the IPS, we are focused on helping the US private sector do what it does best, and that is sparking innovation, sparking growth, and sparking long-lasting prosperity. And here in Bangladesh we've launched a number of initiatives to accelerate private investment to help improve market access and open the investment environment."
However, JoAnne Wagner said when companies see weak institutions, corruption or poor human rights conditions, they look elsewhere. Therefore, they are working very closely with Bangladesh to promote worker safety, legal aid organisations and vulnerable groups to improve legal services.
Asked how regional development and stability is possible without addressing the Rohingya crisis, Stone said the US is acutely aware of the need for a long-term, durable, sustainable solution to the crisis.
"The current situation is not one that can be allowed to perpetuate indefinitely. And so we are in communication with the governments involved to push forward a long-term, sustainable solution that does maintain the basic principles of the humanitarian relief, but also the need for a voluntary and safe return of the Rohingya to their place of origin."