The Asian Development Bank has estimated that the Indo-Pacific region would need some $26 trillion in investment by 2030 to develop its infrastructure
The United States has expressed interest to accelerate private sector investment in Bangladesh in energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and the digital economy and provide technical assistance to diversify exports.
JoAnne Wagner, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Dhaka, made the remark while addressing a virtual press briefing on Indo-Pacific strategy (IPS) on Tuesday.
The United States Department of State hosted the briefing with South and Central Asia Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Stone and JoAnne Wagner.
The Asian Development Bank has estimated that the Indo-Pacific region would need some $26 trillion in investment by 2030 to develop its infrastructure.
“No country or government alone can provide such funding; the private sector must play a key role. So, through the IPS, we are focused on helping the US private sector to do what it does best – spark innovation, economic growth, and long-lasting prosperity,” said Wagner.
“We have launched initiatives to accelerate private sector investment here, focusing on energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and the digital economy as crucial sectors,” she added.
“Through grants, technical assistance, studies on diversifying Bangladesh’s export sector, collaboration with the private sector, and working side-by-side with our Bangladeshi counterparts, these programs help improve market access and open the investment environment.”
The US is the largest source of foreign direct investment in the region and FDI doubled from 2007 to 2017, reaching $940 billion.
In 2019, the US conducted over $1.9 trillion in two-way trade in goods and services with the region, supporting more than three million jobs in the United States and 5.1 million jobs in the Indo-Pacific.
Energy cooperation is another area of burgeoning collaboration between the United States and South Asia, which is helping improve energy security and bringing reliable, affordable energy to Bangladeshis throughout the country.
“We are complementing our diplomatic engagements by providing ongoing technical assistance to Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India – in areas of renewable energy integration, power sector development, procurement reform, and advanced technologies,” said South and Central Asia Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Stone.
The US has supported signature projects, like Bangladesh’s first liquefied natural gas import terminal, commissioned by Excelerate Energy in Moheshkhali, and power plants using GE Power technology, said Wagner.
These projects and joint ventures with US firms will help ease Bangladesh’s transition from coal to gas, and supply electricity for decades to hundreds of thousands of homes – and that changes lives, she added.
“We’re growing our commercial ties, despite the pandemic. Who would have thought a year ago that US clothing giant Hanes would buy and Beximco would deliver 6.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment in less than two months?”
Bangladesh is now part of the small group of world-class, large-scale PPE manufacturing nations, and can quickly become a major global player in the sector, she added.
The US government also put emphasis on people for the future development and establishment of good governance to attract investment from the country.
“A free, open, prosperous Indo-Pacific also requires promoting respect for the rule of law, transparency, and good governance. US businesses are hungry to invest in countries that operate transparently, uphold the rule of law, promote worker safety, and protect both workers’ rights and intellectual property,” said Wagner.
Weak institutions, corruption, and poor human rights conditions deter investment, and companies look elsewhere when faced with such risks, she added.
Since 1971 the US has invested more than $7 billion in development assistance in Bangladesh. Private sector investment is also vital to building pipelines, bridges, and production facilities, but is not enough to ensure sustained prosperity. “To invest in the future, you have to invest in people,” said Wagner.
“That’s why, for example, we are continuing to promote worker safety, and working with the judiciary, legal-aid organizations, and vulnerable groups to improve access to, awareness of, and delivery of legal services in Bangladesh.”
To discuss the economic prospects and growth, the US and Bangladesh will hold its first Economic Growth Dialogue this month.
Meanwhile, the third annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum will take place virtually in October, offering a great opportunity for government and business leaders from the US, Bangladesh, and the Indo-Pacific region to discuss energy, infrastructure, the digital economy, market connectivity, health, and post-Covid economic recovery.
On top of that, the US government also expressed its willingness to work with Bangladesh to recover from the Covid pandemic.
“Covid-19 has presented an unprecedented challenge to the US and South Asia, but our coordination on Covid response has elevated our cooperation and deepened our partnership. This has reinforced our common interest in working together with like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific region to support and facilitate economic recovery,” said Laura Stone.
“It also sparked greater interest in diversifying supply chains and expanding bilateral trade and investment as part of this effort. We’re keen to work with like-minded partners to promote transparent and sustainable infrastructure and safeguard the sea-lanes and air routes of the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” she added.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the United States has provided nearly $56.5 million in assistance to Bangladesh, which includes $21.4 million for health and IDA humanitarian assistance.