Blake stresses transparency for Padma bridge
The US government wants to see transparency in construction of the Padma bridge so that the shareholders of the World Bank could say their money was spent in the right way, said Robert O Blake yesterday.
The visiting US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia also said the country needs to improve the infrastructures, accelerate decision making process and achieve improved transparency for attracting more US investment in Bangladesh.
He said the US is the most important economic partner of Bangladesh while bilateral trade between the two countries is increasing at a faster rate.
He said the bilateral trade between the US and Bangladesh reached $6 billion annually, doubling the US export to Bangladesh to $1 billion last year.
Blake said the two countries will celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations this year.
“Major US companies, including Chevron and Conoco-Phillips, are poised to make significant long-term investments in Bangladesh, particularly in the energy sector,” he said.
On regional cooperation and economic development, Blake said: “The US supports Bangladesh's efforts to strengthen regional economic ties, particularly with India.”
Increasing trade will bring substantial benefits for the people of Bangladesh and India, he said. With a growing market of more than 1 billion consumers, India offers enormous potential to companies in Bangladesh, he said.
“Additionally, I want to recognise the governments of Bangladesh and India for their efforts to improve bilateral relations and resolve longstanding conflicts,” Blake said, adding that the US also encourages relationship with neighbouring Myanmar.
He said the New Silk Road vision of the US will strive to strengthen regional economic integration and promote economic opportunity between countries in South and central Asia through two primary means.
Firstly, through energy and infrastructure those include roads, bridges, electrical transmission grids, railways and pipelines to connect goods, services and people, Blake said.
Secondly, through trade liberalisation, which include the reduction of non-tariff trade barriers, improved regulatory regimes, transparent border clearance procedures, and coordinated policies to accelerate the flow of goods, services and people throughout the region, he said.
Currently, 97 percent products originated from Bangladesh get duty-free access to the US market, but the main export item -- garment products -- is kept out of the option.
“I have doubt whether Bangladeshi garment items get duty-free access to the US market this year,” said Blake.
This is an election year in America and moreover the unemployment rate has gone higher in the US, he said.
Now the people in America need more work, Blake said while addressing at the regular luncheon meeting of American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the capital.
He said the US is already the single largest export destination of Bangladesh based on export of low-cost high quality garment items.
“I am encouraged that the local manufacturers are not dependent only on garment items, but they are also diversifying other exportable products like leather and leather goods, pharmaceuticals and footwear,” Blake said.
Lack of transparency, unpredictability, delays in decision making and weak infrastructures are major impediments in attracting more US investment in Bangladesh, said Aftab ul Islam, AmCham president.
According to data from AmCham, Bangladesh exported goods worth $4.59 billion in 2011 and imported goods worth $1.09 billion.
In 2010, exports to the US were recorded at $4.30 billion, while imports from the US were $577.5 million, according to the data. The amounts were $3.70 billion and $434.6 million in 2009.