A post-Brexit vision materialises

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British Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Bangladesh Rushanara Ali MP meets Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at latter’s official residence. -PID

Businesses go to countries where environment is conducive to investing and operating. The barriers, around the world, are well-known and well-understood. These barriers are not uncommon. These are applicable for all societies.

British Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Bangladesh Rushanara Ali, MP, while talking to Dhaka Courier, made it clear that the United Kingdom wants to invest in a big way in Bangladesh to help achieve its development goals.

A lot of progress has been made in the country in terms of poverty alleviation. But there are big issues like governance - not just for the government here, but for all the governments. “And practical actions are needed to remove these obstacles,” said Rushanara.

She thinks British-Bangladeshis can make the difference with their cemented ties with Bangladesh.

“Obviously, infrastructure is a big area for investment,” said Rushanara who is now visiting Bangladesh for the third time after her appointment as British Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Bangladesh.

There are new areas where Bangladesh and the UK can work, she said listing energy sector, especially renewable energy, and technological cooperation, education, skill sharing, finance and insurance as some potential areas of cooperation.

“You’ve a very young population increasingly educated. You’re really getting involved in developing new enterprises,” Rushanara said mentioning that the two countries have a lot to do together.

The British trade envoy said there is a real recognition that rail, roads, bridges and airports - those basic things need investment and they need partnership from different countries with Bangladesh to help the country achieve its ambition of becoming a middle-income country.

Saying these are related to economic development, Rushanara also laid emphasis on “inclusive development” in Bangladesh. “Investment is needed to attain inclusive growth which is imperative to achieve the development goals.”

Talking about investment barriers, she said further improvement in business climate means more investors to look at Bangladesh for future investment, not just from the UK but from other countries. “This is something very important.”

The trade envoy said, “Businesses go to countries where environment is conducive to investing and operating. You all know it very well.”

Rushanara said the barriers are well understood and she thinks Bangladeshi people can understand them better than she can describe.

She, however, expressed optimism that they have been working together and a favorable business environment is considerably worked out. “That’s something we’ll keep doing.”

Talking about British-Bangladeshi nationals, she said they have a very high expectation as they have a relationship with this country. “Their origin is here. They’ve a huge amount of commitment to this country.”

Rushanara said sometimes people go away getting disappointed if they confronts with barriers. “The relationship needs to be protected, cemented and harnessed. We’ve a role to play.”

She laid emphasis on producing high-value garment products and tech business saying there is real potential for partnership.

“I am here to keep the momentum, to make sure that UK companies can continue to operate here. And others, who are not here, can see Bangladesh as a place to invest in and trade with,” she said adding that they are increasingly getting integrated in the British society and are contributing to its growth.

Rushanara pointed out that through increased trade and development, countries like Britain can contribute to Bangladesh’s efforts to attain the middle-income country status.

BD in Post-Brexit Era

The Labour Party MP thinks countries like Bangladesh would have more opportunity to enhance trade with Britain in the post-Brexit period. Rushanara is eager to see that Bangladesh enjoys more benefit in its exports to Britain.

The talks is going on as the UK is leaving the European Union but it made it clear that Bangladesh will get the duty and quota-free market access even after the Brexit.

Traditionally, British businesses did not see Bangladesh as a destination. They stopped in India. They haven’t taken the last leg of journey to get over here and see the opportunities.

Rushanara said now they are coming because there is a lot to gain from looking to Bangladesh.

Rushanara had a meeting with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at his Banani residence in the city and discussed the issues in details on July 22.

Minister Tofail hoped that the trade relations between Bangladesh and the UK will increase even after the UK comes out from the European Union (EU) formally.

“Bangladesh is in close discussion with the UK in this regard,” said the Minister mentioning that Bangladesh now enjoys duty-free and quota free market access to the EU under everything but arms (EBA) scheme.

The UK has voted to leave the European Union. It is scheduled to depart at 11 pm UK time on Friday 29 March, 2019.

Rohingya Crisis

On Rohingya issue, the British lawmaker said it is a “terrible tragedy” and the international community needs to increase humanitarian assistance.

“We’ll keep up the pressure. We want to make sure the international community doesn’t turn its eyes way from this severe crisis,” she said adding that their first priority is to increase assistance.

Bangladesh has done an extraordinary, unprecedented job by hosting over a million Rohingyas. But keeping them as refugees here is not a sustainable solution at all. So the world community should come up to support Bangladesh in resolving the crisis.

And there are issues regarding justice, which also need quick international initiatives, so that the perpetrators could be tried, she added.

In February, over 100 British parliamentarians, including Rushanara, said it is time for the UK to state that Myanmar’s military should be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their appalling “security operations” against the Rohingya, described as ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide by the United Nations.

The parliamentarians wrote to the then British Foreign Secretary seeking measures in line with their call. They sent a letter to the foreign secretary calling for an ICC referral for Myanmar’s military general.

Next Elections

The British trade envoy met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on July 23 and discussed political issues. The Prime Minister, during the meeting, hoped that all political parties will join the next parliamentary elections to be held in the year-end.

Prime Minister Hasina said the Election Commission conducted more than 6,000 local body elections and by-elections under her government, which were free and fair. “The ruling party won some polls, while opposition some others.”

She mentioned that democracy in the UK is moving on uninterruptedly, but in Bangladesh it was disrupted by military rulers. Many welfare-oriented activities had been stopped, too.

Rushanara said they are committed to building strong trade relations with Bangladesh and mentioned that Brexit will not affect Bangladesh in case of its trade with the UK. She highly praised the development of Bangladesh in different socio-economic indexes.

Prime Minister’s daughter and noted Autism activist Saima Wazed Hossain, Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Md Nojibur Rahman and British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Alison Blake were present.

Rushanara Ali arrived here on July 21 on a five-day visit to discuss how trade and investment ties between the two countries can be strengthened further.

  • Issue 3
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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