Bangladesh, UK: Two-day strategic dialogue starts today
Bangladesh and UK will hold a two-day strategic dialogue beginning today. It will cover political, diplomatic, trade and development relationship between the two countries in the post-Brexit era.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen and UK Permanent Under-Secretary of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Sir Philip Barton will lead the respective delegations in the meeting in London.
Masud Bin Momen arrived in London last night, while UK High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson had arrived there for the dialogue on Tuesday.
This is the fourth Bangladesh-UK Strategic Dialogue, an annual meet of the two countries held alternatively in Dhaka and London. However, this year's iteration comes after a break, as the dialogue could not be held last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the dialogue, the UK will congratulate Bangladesh on its golden jubilee of independence, according to diplomatic sources.
It will also laud the contribution of British Bangladeshis, especially in the UK's health sector, where a significant number of doctors and nurses are of Bangladeshi origins. There are about 600,000 British Bangladeshis in the UK, making people to people
connectivity a significant part of the bilateral relationship.
UK also is a major trade and development partner of Bangladesh, which exports products worth $3 billion under a duty-free regime. It is also a major investor.
Bangladesh will seek an extension of the UK's zero-duty GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facility until 2029, especially given the losses suffered by the Bangladeshi apparel industry owing to post-pandemic cancellations and non-payments by UK retailers.
Trade relations with the UK, which came out of EU early last year, will be discussed elaborately in the dialogue, a foreign ministry official said.
"Bangladesh is seeking more foreign investments, but there are issues that need to be addressed including ease of doing business here," a diplomatic source said.
One of Bangladesh's major concerns right now is the UK's red listing, which is preventing at least 7,000 British Bangladeshis to travel back to the UK, along with restricting trade-related travelling.
"Bangladesh will emphasise the red listing," the official concerned said, adding that Dhaka will also seek a simpler and efficient visa regime for Bangladeshis.
As a climate vulnerable country, Bangladesh will seek technological transfer for renewable energy, net zero carbon emission, and compensation for loss and damage caused by climate change from the developed countries.
In the last strategic dialogue in 2019, UK had raised the issues of free elections, freedom of speech, democracy, human and labour rights, irregular migration, good governance, gender equality etc.
A diplomatic source said these are some of the issues that the UK will raise again during the strategic dialogue. "As a Commonwealth country, UK wants the values of democracy, women's rights, and human rights to be upheld."
Bangladesh will also seek more pressure from the UK on Myanmar for Rohingya repatriation as well as funding for humanitarian assistance.
The two countries will also talk about the Afghanistan situation and ways to work in unison to restore regional peace, security, and stability.