US envoy Bernicat says

US not in competition with India or China in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has all economic fundamentals to become regional production hub, she says

23 Feb 2017, 18:11

Online Desk

Dhaka: US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat on Thursday said the United States is not in competition with either India or China here in Bangladesh rather share the goal of a prosperous, safe, and stable society for Bangladesh.

“I believe that all India, China, and the United States share the goal of a prosperous, safe, and stable society for Bangladesh,” she said dispelling a notion regarding competition among the three global powers in Bangladesh.

The US Ambassador said Bangladesh and its neighbours are missing out on significant opportunities because of insufficient regional connectivity.

She said Bangladesh possesses all the economic fundamentals necessary to attract foreign investment and become a regional production hub.

"Bangladesh successes, however, would have been even greater had it been better integrated into the regional economy," Bernicat said mentioning positive aspects of Bangladesh that maintained more than six percent annual growth sustained over the past two decades having a large, young, and reliable workforce.

She also found a huge domestic consumer market of over 165 million people; a vibrant, innovative private sector; and a strategic location between South Asia and Southeast Asia as positive aspects of Bangladesh. 

The Ambassador was addressing an international conference on 'China, India and the United States in Bangladesh: Cultivating Competitive Cooperation' at the auditorium of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB) in the city.

Chairman, Board of Trustees, IUB, Rashed Chowdhury, Vice Chancellor, IUB, Dr. M. Omar Rahman, Dean School of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences, Dr. Mahbub Alam, Dean, School of Environmental Science and Management, IUB Dr Md Abdul Khaleque, Head, GSG, Independent University, Bangladesh, Dr. Imtiaz A. Hussain, Director, BIMSTEC, Kunzang N Tshering, adjunct Professor, IUB Dr. Salehuddin Ahmed and Chairman, Education, Science, Technology, and Cultural Development Trustee (ESTCDT) Abdul Hai Sarker, were, among others, present.

Ambassador Bernicat recognised that helping Bangladesh meet its own ambitious development goals will require good ideas and resources of more than a single country. 

She said the United States welcomes development and economic assistance from other countries and international organizations. “A key issue is ensuring fair and transparent rules, which is my next point.”

Bernicat said South Asia is among the least economically integrated regions in the world. 

“A more interconnected transportation system would lower the cost of moving cargo and make Bangladesh an even more attractive garment manufacturing hub; and an interconnected energy grid could help lessen energy shortages that are currently limiting the growth of many industrial sectors in the country,” she observed.

Significantly, Bernicat said, the government of Bangladesh has shown a strong commitment to developing Bangladesh’s infrastructure that will enhance greater regional connectivity. 

Three of the government’s “fast-track” infrastructure projects: a deep-sea port at Payra; a rail link connecting Chittagong Port to Myanmar; and a multipurpose road-rail bridge across the Padma River will significantly increase connectivity between India and Bangladesh, she said.

As a least-developed country, Bangladesh has a number of preferential trade benefits but those benefits will be phased out as Bangladesh reaches middle-income status. 

“Before 2021, improving Bangladesh’s energy, transportation and trade connections to its neighbors will help ensure the country’s economic growth streak can continue beyond 2021,” Bernicat said.

The US Ambassador reemphasised two points - first, she said the United States welcomes international collaboration to help Bangladesh meet its development goals.

Secondly, she added, better regional connectivity has the benefit of supporting Bangladesh’s domestic economic development and also increases the country’s attractiveness to American and international investors and traders. 

“We look forward to continuing to work with Bangladesh and its neighbors to support our mutual goals,” said Ambassador Bernicat.