Few can argue that maintaining good trade relations with the incoming Trump administration will be critical for Bangladesh. The US is the single largest destination for Bangladeshi products after the European Union and in the last fiscal year alone, Bangladesh exported US$6.22 billion worth of goods to the USA, of which $5.62 billion came from the ready-made garments (RMG) sector.
This is despite Washington having suspended duty-free imports of Bangladeshi products in 2013 - the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) - following the Rana Plaza collapse and Tazreen factory fire that together killed over 1,200 people.
'Opportunity for negotiation'
“Bangladesh has to set a new economic diplomacy for better economic ties with the US government for regaining the GSP, as the new government usually is keen to give within first few months,” said Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President, Abdul Matlub Ahmed.
“Since we are not enjoying duty-free access to the US market, there is nothing to be worried about in the change in the US administration," Abdul said.
"But, it does create an opportunity for negotiation with the newly-elected adminstration.”
Trump’s campaign was marked by fiery anti-foreign rhetoric and promises to tear up trade deals. He struck a noticeably more conciliatory tone in his victory speech, arguing he would seek good relations with other countries.
There are nevertheless fears that his long standing anti-China credentials might have a negative impact on Bangladeshi trade and exports.
"It may hurt us due to Trump’s anti-China trade policy, as we are being treated under same agreement,” said Policy Research Institute Executive Director, Ahsan H Mansur.
BGMEA Senior Vice President Faruq Hassan, however, said the Republican is better for business and so there would be no negative impact on bilateral trade.
“The good thing for Bangladesh is that Trump does not want to sign the Transpacific Partnership, which would really hurt Bangladesh’s export to the US market, leaving us facing tougher competition,” Hassan said.
"Trump will try to boost the US economy but it’s a matter of time to see if there is a positive or negative impact on Bangladesh."
No cause for alarm
Exporters Association of Bangladesh President, Abdus Salam Murshedy, told the Dhaka Tribune that Trump will have good policies for the businesses that can help Bangladesh, since the incoming president is himself a businessman.
“Bangladesh has been doing business with the US since 1980 and there was no major change in trade policy with each political changeover. (So) I think there will be no impact on Bangladesh after the victory of Donald Trump,” Abdus said.
Former finance adviser to the caretaker government, ABM Mirza Azizul Islam, took a similar line.
“I think there will be no impact on Bangladesh’s trade benefits and tariff system as it depends on the decision of some committee of the US government, where there are representatives from the Republican and Democrat parties,” he said.
“Usually the US government did not change its trade and foreign policy with other countries with a change of the government.”
He did say, however, that the opportunities for regaining GSP would be fewer as Trump "does not believe in free trade".
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already invited President-elect Trump to visit Bangladesh to witness the "phenomenal development" that has taken place in recent years. While the new president's schedule may be too busy for that, it at least signals the government's desire to talk business.