Assalamu aleikum, nomoshkar, good evening and good morning. Thank you for that introduction, Myron.
It is a great honor to address you all as we celebrate the inauguration of the U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council. The United States is proud of the partnership that we have built with the Bangladeshi people since Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led a proud and determined people to achieve their independence 50 years ago. How fitting that we honor that important anniversary today by launching the U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council.
President Biden and Secretary Blinken are committed to strengthening our relationship as we address some of the most pressing regional and global challenges together, including the Rohingya humanitarian crisis and our global challenge to tackle climate change.
Facing long odds of success at independence, Bangladesh came to use wisely its robust collection of NGOs and to nurture a market economy to develop a world class textile industry – the second large exporter of readymade garments in the world – that has fueled and nation as it empowered its women by providing transformational educational and economic opportunity. These remarkable women and the sector they built played a leading role in driving Bangladesh’s dynamic economic growth, which will soon result in the country’s remarkable graduation from the least developed country status.
Bangladesh’s impressive economic sector provides a solid platform on which to expand and deepen our relationship. Recognizing this, last September, our two countries held a High-Level Consultation on Economic Partnership, a first, to lay the groundwork for deeper bilateral cooperation in several key areas, including energy, infrastructure, agriculture, the environment, transportation, and information technologies. The High-Level Consultation was designed to focus on the true source of economic strength in both of our countries — our private sector companies. The U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council will harness this strength for the benefit of both of our economies. This is especially timely as we build back better from the economic effects of COVID-19.
The Council’s diverse board reflects the impressive potential Bangladesh holds, with U.S. companies representing the key sectors of energy, digital technology, financial services, and agriculture.
Bangladesh’s sustained economic growth and enormous potential has attracted the attention of these and other top U.S. companies, many of which are participating in this event. These companies are poised to further catalyze Bangladesh’s economy and business environment by unleashing the full range of benefits that U.S. companies bring. These benefits include technology and business know-how, knowledge transfers, capital and investment, as well as corporate best practices, such as zero tolerance for corruption and stakeholder inclusion through corporate social responsibility. These benefits help ensure that every dollar invested maximizes production, boosts exports and fuels the economic growth Bangladeshi leaders, beginning with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and today led by the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, recognized as the secret to Bangladesh’s success.
The U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council and the American private sector will be invaluable partners to help Bangladesh reach the ambitions laid out in its Bangladesh Vision 2041, including to become a high-income country.
We have already seen some of this cooperation in action. U.S. companies operating in Bangladesh are bringing sustainable best practices and making unique contributions, such as local community economic development and innovative AI-powered flood alerts. A U.S.-Bangladesh partnership achieved Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s extraordinary vision by launching Bangladesh into space with the Bangabandhu-1 satellite. And in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was Bangladeshi companies who stepped up to play a critical role in establishing more diverse and secure global supply chains, exporting valuable PPE to the United States.
Looking to the future, we fully expect U.S. and Bangladeshi companies to partner in such fields as renewable energy and digital services to continue Bangladesh’s economic ascent. At the same time, these collaborations will ensure the high standards across the supply chain desired by sophisticated global consumers are reached. Adopting the Cotton Trust Protocol and similar sustainability programs will ensure that workers earn a fair wage and enjoy rights protected under the law, while using ethically-sourced materials.
U.S. private sector companies operating in Bangladesh are instrumental in contributing to an improved business environment, but the U.S. Government is also playing a pivotal role by providing a wide range of technical assistance. This includes advising on how to reform procurement guidelines, helping to establish an independent power system operator, and providing guidance on Bangladesh’s AI policy to help create an even more successful business environment.
The U.S. continues to look for ways to help make Bangladesh more attractive for investment, which in turn provides for the transparency and rule of law that all companies thrive in. Similarly, we look forward to welcoming Bangladeshi investment into the United States from the country’s increasingly internationally competitive companies.
President Biden has emphasized the challenge of climate change, stating that “the United States and the world face a profound climate crisis” and by placing climate change at the center of our foreign policy, diplomacy, and national security. Bangladesh’s leadership in addressing climate change offers the United States – and the world – a great partner to tackle this climate crisis. As president of the Climate Vulnerable Forum and the Vulnerable Twenty Group of Finance Ministers, Bangladesh has a leading voice and can make irreplaceable contributions toward a successful COP26. As a climate vulnerable country, Bangladesh will require significant climate adaptation and resilience, especially in view of its increasingly ambitious climate goals. U.S. companies are well placed to deliver many of the solutions Bangladesh will need to sustainably grow its economy.
This is an exciting time in U.S.-Bangladesh relations, and it is a particularly timely moment to inaugurate this organization to support closer U.S.-Bangladesh economic cooperation. I congratulate the new U.S.-Bangladesh Business Council and look forward to engaging with the Council to make long-lasting contributions to U.S.-Bangladesh economic cooperation and to Shonar Bangla itself.