Govt seeks US support in jute, agro-processing | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 07, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 08:14 PM, October 07, 2020

Govt seeks US support in jute, agro-processing

Bangladesh has sought US investment and technological support in agro-processing, agricultural trade and jute sectors as it could promote food security and address environmental degradation caused by the use of polyethylene-based items.

The indication was given after a review of the country's post-Covid-19 recovery strategy to expand domestic demand through public investments in infrastructure and service delivery and to increase the rate of foreign direct investment in export diversifying sectors.

It came at a meeting of the newly formed US–Bangladesh Economic Partnership Dialogue held virtually on September 30.

Salman F Rahman, the prime minister's adviser on private industry and investment, led the Bangladesh side and Keith Krach, US under-secretary of state for economic growth, energy and environment, headed the US side in the meeting.

The meeting participants observed that efforts should continue to support cooperation in areas of science and technology, including innovative plant breeding technologies, science-based standards, and the principles of risk analysis.

This will help meet the agricultural challenges and consumer needs of the 21st century, according to a joint statement issued by the US Department of State yesterday.

Earlier in the last Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement, Bangladesh had invited US investment in the economic zones.

The two sides expressed hope that fair procurement processes in Bangladesh would contribute to further expanding US trade and investment in Bangladesh.

Both Bangladesh and the US recognised that a fast-economic recovery would necessitate new forms of protection for the workforces and populations, including women and children, and that these changes would require enhanced bilateral and global cooperation.

They called for enhancing cooperation and capabilities for public health preparedness and recommended that a joint public health experts response group be established to meet urgently and then periodically to find ways for stronger bilateral, regional and global collaboration.

Bangladesh welcomed a US intent to open a foreign commercial service office in Dhaka.

It also lauded continuation of a USAID project to further improve Bangladesh's business environment, including customs administration, agricultural and other areas in trade, risk management, regional connectivity and awareness and transparency of trade policies and procedures.

Bangladesh may continue to bring reforms for the labour sector, including in the labour act and rules and export processing zones act in alignment with recommendations of International Labour Organization, the joint statement said.

The two sides shared their mutual interest in stable bilateral trade in cotton and related products.

They encouraged both governments to remain engaged on this issue and agreed to move towards further expanding 4G connectivity and developing 5G networks and services in Bangladesh.

The US side praised Bangladesh for hosting the Third Indian Ocean Rim Association Blue Economy Ministerial Conference in 2019.

"Both governments will work together to develop an inclusive blue economy by sharing knowledge, data and ideas, building greater capacity, and enhancing professional collaboration," the joint statement said.

The meeting discussed exploring the possibility of establishment of an energy sector dialogue to facilitate commercial engagement with US energy companies.

It could also increase the possible use of US products and services that support smarter, more efficient and more resilient energy systems, and improve access to reliable, affordable energy to Bangladesh.

The US and Bangladesh have a strong history of cooperation in the energy sector and the meeting recognised the importance of energy security to promote regional connectivity, and power stability to further advance Bangladesh's economic growth.

It encouraged stakeholders to collaborate and explore the possibility of further expanding the footprint of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an efficient and clean primary fuel for Bangladesh's power generation.

American companies like Excelerate Energy and Cheniere Energy were involved at the early stages of Bangladesh's journey to the world of LNG. The US energy participants hoped that the cooperation in this regard would continue to grow in future.

The first cargoes of US-produced LNG have already been exported to Bangladesh.

The US Department of Commerce announced the creation of a US-Bangladesh Energy Industry Working Group as part of Asia EDGE (Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy) Energy Industry Working Group Network.

The network creates a one-stop-shop for the US private sector to actively participate in Asia EDGE interagency programmes and connect to regional market opportunities.

Bangladesh said the USAID, in partnership with National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), has completed the NREL's wind resources study that would help advance Bangladesh's goal of produced 10 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources.

A $15 million USAID Asia EDGE activity to support Bangladesh in deploying advanced energy systems, mobilising private sector investments in energy, and strengthening regional power markets has been planned. 

The state department announced support for a battery storage development and adoption programme to assess the value of adding storage to Bangladesh's electricity grids, and the South Asia Carbon Capture Project to help reduce environmental impacts of fossil fuel consumption.

The Bangladesh side expressed hope that the continued positive engagement between the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh would help Bangladesh's efforts to regain Category 1 status under the FAA's International Aviation Safety Assessment programme.

This would signify an important milestone in the process for Biman Bangladesh Airlines to resume non-stop services to the United States.

The Bangladesh side said the government has reviewed its Delta 2100 Plan and would procure high-quality dredgers of appropriate categories for inland waterways management in the country.

In recognition of Bangladesh's efforts, the US Trade and Development Agency announced a reverse trade mission that would bring a delegation of public and private sector Bangladeshi officials to the US in 2021 to explore US best practices and advanced technologies for dredging.

Bangladesh hopes that well-regarded US companies would continue to participate in the international tender process, where a level-playing field for all is ensured by the government.

In light of Covid-19, the meeting participants noted that it was important for Bangladesh to further enhance its resilience to withstand future economic shocks.

"This could be done through a more solid economic base ensuring greater participation of people in economic activities."

The participants said through greater cooperation, they could help ensure a more sustainable future for the next generations to establish better public financial management and safeguarding the rights of workers.

It could also ensure continued support for vulnerable Bangladeshi communities affected by the Rohingya crisis, and coordinating to improve natural resource management by supporting water and energy security, sustainable trade and investment, agriculture, forestry and fishing. 

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