Many of our friends in Bangladesh have welcomed an announcement made on June 25 by the Rt Hon Liam Fox MP and Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, the Secretaries of State for International Trade and International Development respectively. The UK intends to secure Bangladesh's existing trade arrangement of duty-free and quota-free access to the UK market after the UK's departure from the European Union. This underlines the British government's commitment to building its trade relationship with Bangladesh after the UK has left the EU.
The UK and Bangladesh already enjoy a strong relationship on trade and development, with the UK a major source of investment into Bangladesh and a significant contributor to Bangladesh's industrial development and its progress in reducing poverty. More than two hundred firms from the UK are registered in Bangladesh, sharing expertise and bringing specialist products and services in every sector from power through banking to education. The UK is also the third largest single destination for exports from Bangladesh. Ten percent of all Bangladesh's export products go to the UK, valued at around USD 3.2 billion annually. It is a trade relationship that sees these exports, and especially garments, make their way from Chittagong to every corner of the British Isles.
We want the UK and Bangladesh to become even closer trading partners after we have left the EU. It is an expression of the UK government's commitment that a post-Brexit Britain will be a Global Britain: a bold, outward-looking and self-confident nation committed to building a brighter, better future for its citizens and to forging stronger relationships with the rest of the world.
Because even amidst historic political change, the UK's belief in free trade as a force for good remains at the heart of our trade and development work.
Nowhere is this more relevant than Bangladesh with its remarkable economic transformation and growth over the past decade.
Through our aid programme and our broader engagement, the UK is supporting Bangladesh's human development and its economic growth. And our work here is designed to ensure that Bangladesh delivers growth as sustainably and inclusively as possible, so that poverty continues to diminish and prosperity is shared as widely as possible among all of Bangladesh's people.
The garment sector in Bangladesh directly employs four million people, most of them women. It provides stable incomes, skills training and opportunities for the garment workers, their families and their communities. Bangladesh's competitive advantage in garments is partly because of the well-established relationships with buyers in the UK and across Europe. The UK government's commitment to maintaining tariff and quota-free access after we have left the EU should give investors and manufacturers alike the confidence needed to make long-term investments in compliant, safe working places and in up-skilling workers and managers. Such investments ensure that overseas buyers continue to see Bangladesh as their preferred source of garments.
Bangladesh needs to continue its work to diversify its exports. The UK Aid and Trade work supports the government of Bangladesh in identifying future growth sectors, and in making it easier for both local and international businesses, including British companies, to operate profitably in Bangladesh. DFID's first ever Economic Development Strategy recognises the importance of private sector investment in job-creating sectors—including manufacturing, infrastructure and commercial agriculture—so that countries industrialise faster and sustainably.
Our focus on economic development in Bangladesh is reinforced by our broader bilateral engagement including on human development. Trade flourishes where there are high levels of education, developed financial sectors, strong governance, accountable institutions and transparency that combats corruption.
The commitment the UK has made to Bangladesh and 47 other developing partners who currently benefit under the EU's Everything But Arms arrangement is to share the benefits of the prosperity that free trade brings, abroad and at home. Trade creates jobs, increases wages and attracts the investment needed to grow local industry. Trade is the biggest champion of domestic consumers, lowering costs of everyday products and raising household incomes. For producer countries, particularly in the developing world, it stimulates the economic growth which has already seen hundreds of millions lifted from the scourge of poverty. Britain will remain open for business to Bangladesh and the whole of the developing world.
Alison Blake is British High Commissioner to Bangladesh and Jane Edmondson is Head of Office, DFID Bangladesh.