|Alan Larson, Under Secretary of State|
for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs
Remarks, U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council
Washington, DC, October 18, 2000
Thank you, Herb, for extending the opportunity to join members of the U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council (U.S.-BBC) and invited guests in honoring Prime Minister Hasina. The U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council has made a major contribution to the bilateral commercial relationship since its inauguration 2 short years ago.
I look forward to working with you and your Bangladeshi counterparts in the private sector to foster a greater awareness of business opportunities in Bangladesh. I would also like to acknowledge Senator Chuck Hagel, whose leadership we greatly value, as we respond to the challenges and of the global economy.
Madam Prime Minister, I know that your schedule hall been very demanding, addressing a full range of issues on our bilateral agenda. I join our U.S.-BBC hosts in thanking you for taking time to meet with the U.S. business community. Your presence here today is a testament to your recognition of the private sector's profound contribution to economic development.
U.S.-Bangladesh economic relations have entered a new phase over the last several years. Official assistance is now being accompanied by a rapid increase of American investment and bilateral trade. Supported by our Bilateral Investment Treaty, in place for more than a decade now, U.S. investment is more than $700 million. This makes the U.S. the single largest contributor to Bangladesh's total foreign direct investment, thanks to many of you here in the room today.
Sustainable Growth: TFCA
Both the U.S. government and private sector welcome the willingness of Bangladesh to embrace innovative approaches toward sustainable economic growth. We were pleased to work with you to establish the Tropical Forest Conservation Fund, the first of its kind in the world. The Fund will enable Bangladesh to redirect debt service to preserve unique ecosystems and protect the global environment.
New Economy: Internet for Economic Development
The global economy is increasingly driven by the New Economy. The Internet, supported by the necessary infrastructure and an open regulatory environment, can make a big contribution to development strategy, producing multifold cultural, political, and economic benefits.
We are committed to working with countries like Bangladesh to realize these benefits, and therefore share your excitement that President Clinton has extended an invitation to Bangladesh to participate as a partner country in the Internet for Economic Development Initiative.
I very much hope, Madam Prime Minister, that you will be able to take up this invitation and that our two governments will be able to work closely together to help bring the benefits of information technology to the people of Bangladesh. I sincerely hope that the U.S.-BBC members active In the IT sectors will work with the Government of Bangladesh and our country team to support the Initiative for Economic Development and related U.S. government capacity-building activities in Bangladesh.
Business Climate and Commercial Success
The full promise of information technologies and e-commerce will remain unfulfilled, however, without the supporting infrastructure for trade in goods and services and business mobility.
I am therefore heartened to learn that progress is being made in contractual negotiations for building a new container port terminal, and hope that an agreement to implement the project can be signed by the end of the year. Our Governments agree that increasing the efficiency of Bangladesh's port facilities is a critical factor in enhancing Bangladesh's ability to engage in world trade.
To keep the pulse of world trade beating quickly, we need flexible and liberalized air arrangements, facilitating the exchange of people, goods and services that are the lifeblood of the new economy. I understand that the Federal Aviation Administration has committed to work with the Bangladesh Civil Air Authority to help it meet international standards for safety and oversight. Once safety issues are resolved, we would favor signing an Open Skies Agreement to permit greatly expanded service.
Rule of Law
Madam Prime Minister, we welcomed your remarks at the UN Millennium Summit, in which you eloquently and emphatically argued that democracy is necessary for development.
Your government deserves credit for translating the principles you set forth in New York into constructive steps, virtually eliminating child labor in the garment industry, and committing your government to early ratification of ILO Convention 182.
Adherence to internationally-recognized labor rights is a core value underpinning our international economic policy. The United States is committed to work with the Government of Bangladesh to achieve further progress in adopting tenets such as the right of association and collective bargaining in Bangladesh's export processing zones, so that they may serve as a productive model for labor-management relations.
Education and Health
Our mutual efforts to support the education and welfare of the Bangladeshi people should not go unrecognized by U.S. investors. Bangladesh's interest in science literacy, through participation in the GLOBE, Program, and our shared commitment to combat the threat posed by arsenic contamination, should be welcome news to those looking at long-term hiring needs to support their Bangladeshi operations.
Just one word on natural gas, and the question of gas exports. We have had numerous exchanges on this issue recently. At this point, we all agree that it is to have a factual basis from which to work. Then, the Government of Bangladesh can decide among its policy options.
In conclusion, we must now turn our attention to fulfilling the commitments made during your visit, which will help renew and improve prospects for U.S. trade and investment. The commercial relationship between Bangladesh and the United States will both deepen and broaden in the years ahead. Thank you again for allowing me to participate in this momentous occasion.
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