Bangladesh, US to work together on crucial issues | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 25, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:00 PM, February 25, 2021

Bangladesh, US to work together on crucial issues

Momen talks with Blinken in Washington DC over phone

Dhaka and Washington have agreed to work together to promote democracy, good governance and human rights while further strengthening bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation on global issues.

The consensus came during a phone conversation between Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken late Tuesday.

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Momen is currently on a visit to Washington DC -- the first one after Joe Biden assumed power and announced that his administration would work on addressing climate change, promoting multilateralism, democracy, good governance and human rights.

Apart from engagement with Blinken, which could not be held in-person due to Covid-19 restrictions, Momen was scheduled to deliver two speeches on the Rohingya crisis, meet some US Congressmen and give interviews to two US media outlets in response to "negative propaganda" against Bangladesh, especially regarding extrajudicial killings.

Bangladesh's foreign ministry said the visit is meant to reach out to the new US administration to further enhance the level of cooperation between the two countries having bilateral annual trade of about $9 billion, which could be much higher if potentials are harnessed.

The US suspended GSP facilities of Bangladesh following the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, and Bangladesh has been seeking reconsideration of the GSP facilities.

On the Rohingya issue, Bangladesh also sought the leading role of the US, which provided the biggest humanitarian assistance for the Rohingyas.

In a statement, the US State Department said the two leaders discussed the situation in Myanmar, a durable solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis, and the importance of respect for labour and human rights.

They also discussed ways of strengthening bilateral economic ties, cooperation on counter terrorism, defence and common challenges like climate change together.

"Good to speak with Foreign Minister @AKAbdulMomen and congratulate him on Bangladesh's 50th anniversary of independence. We affirmed the strong, enduring US-Bangladesh relationship and look forward to working together to address challenges in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific," Blinken tweeted.

In a separate statement, Bangladesh's foreign ministry said Momen congratulated the new US administration for upholding the democratic process with a strong popular mandate, assuming once again America's global leadership role.

He said Bangladesh wants to elevate her relations with the US from partnership to a strategic level through maintaining close and sustained contact with the US leadership, emphasising on the exchange of visits at the highest political levels between the two countries.

Momen sought early deportation of Rashed Chowdhury, the self-confessed killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in the spirit of the shared values of establishing good governance, the rule of law and justice.

He urged the US to take the lead and bring the international community together to put enough political pressure on Myanmar to create condition for sustainable return of the Rohingyas, while encouraging more stringent measures like imposing economic sanction and withdrawing GSP facilities of Myanmar.

He also recommended that the US appoint a special envoy on Rohingya.

Momen briefed on Bangladesh's effective handling of the coronavirus pandemic and noted the US donation of high-quality ventilators to Bangladesh, and Bangladesh's supply of 6.5 million PPE to the US.

He said Bangladesh is ready to supply medical instruments, like syringes.

Blinken hoped both the countries would be able to find newer avenues for collaboration in the post Covid-19 era by mutual support and cooperation.

As Momen sought US investment in Special Economic Zones and High-Tech Parks, Blinken sought favourable policy support from Bangladesh to enable a business and investment climate for promoting more trade and investment between the two countries.

Both sides hoped the US companies would take advantage of the competitiveness of Bangladesh and invest in the country in much greater volume, particularly in the areas of ICT, energy, pharmaceuticals and infrastructural development.

Momen invited Blinken to visit Bangladesh soon to attend the celebrations of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence. He hoped that President Biden would visit Bangladesh soon.

Blinken lauded Bangladesh's economic performance, and noted that the US considers Bangladesh a crucial economic and security partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

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