The two-day second partnership dialogue between Dhaka and Washington begins today to discuss four broad areas of cooperation: trade and investment, governance and development, security cooperation and regional integration.
Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque will lead the Bangladesh delegation while US State Department under secretary for political affairs Wendy Sherman heads the US side.
They will discuss trade and investment issues including labour rights and the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (Ticfa). A senior official of the ministry, preferring to remain unnamed, said: “An announcement of signing Ticfa between Dhaka and Washington is expected after the dialogue."
He said the signing itself would take some time, as it has to be approved by the cabinet.
On May 22, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said Ticfa, which is an official platform to resolve conflicts and problems in trade and commerce, would be good for Dhaka and Washington "provided we formulate the agreement in such a manner that it will protect interests of the both the countries".
The State Department's Assistant Secretary for Business and Economic Affair Jose Fernandez, three deputy assistant secretaries and a Pentagon brigadier general will accompany Sherman along with representatives from over 25 US companies.
Talks at the foreign ministry start at 10am, divided into a working group and a plenary group.
The working group will have a number of meetings, said a senior foreign ministry official, also requesting anonymity. It will discuss trade and investment, development and governance, and security cooperation issues on the first day.
Private sector representatives will have a series of meetings with different chambers on May 26.
At the plenary session the next day the private sector will present its findings, followed by presentations by the working groups.
The official said: "During lunch we will discuss regional and global issues in a multilateral context. Afterwards a joint statement will be issued".
US ambassador Dan W Mozena at a briefing last week said various aspects of labour rights would be discussed, including formation of unions and work safety.
They will talk about labour law reform and how to proceed further, they will talk about fire safety standard in all factory, not 50% but 100%. They will talk about minimum factory structural soundness standard.
The US business delegation is scheduled to meet Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Commerce Minister GM Quader and Board of Investment Executive Chairman SA Samad to discuss Bangladesh's business environment, said another foreign ministry official.
They will attend four seminars at the Dhaka Chamber on trade and investment, labour rights, energy sector and regional integration. He said: ÒThey will meet leaders of BGMEA, FBCCI and MCCI and attend a networking lunch hosted by the FBCCI.
The business team will visit the Dhaka Export Processing Zone, the Beximco industrial complex and a readymade garment factory, said the ministry official.