Chair of South Asia Trade Monitoring Committee within the European Parliament Sajjad Karim has said Bangladesh must stand with the European Union (EU) to maintain international rules-based order if it is to be seen favourably.
Dr Karim made the remarks in Brussels to a high-level Bangladeshi delegation on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s political affairs adviser HT Imam, economic affairs adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman, chair of the parliamentary standing committee on Foreign Affairs Dipu Moni, MP and chairman, parliamentary standing committee on Environment and Forests Ministry Dr Hasan Mahmud, among others, present.
Dr Karim said anything less than solidarity with the EU would be seen as a lack of commitment when it matters the most, according to a message UNB received here from Brussels on Wednesday.
Speaking in the European Parliament, the British MEP said he has received several messages from very prominent people within Bangladesh - decision makers, policymakers and people who can influence the debate - about how Bangladesh finds itself in a position where it has to stand by and watch world events, and react to them accordingly.
“No – that’s simply not good enough,” said Dr Karim.
He said the European Union is currently taking a stance to ensure that the current world order - a rules based system - not just in trade but on a much wider basis, is maintained and strengthened.
“Our partner countries like Bangladesh, who themselves have benefited from that international order, cannot just be mere bystanders that wait to see which way the wind blows.
“No. Today is the day you must nail your colours to the mast and say that we stand with all those who want to maintain the international rules based order. Anything other than that, I’m afraid, will quite rightfully be viewed as a lack of commitment when it mattered most,” he said.
Dr Karim also said the Bangladesh government provides a binding timetable on its Sustainability Compact obligations as soon as possible, in large part due to the proximity of the 2019 European Elections.
Addressing the delegation, he said, “To give you a bit of a briefing for what happens after the European elections, this depends on how Bangladesh has dealt with the issues that it was required to deal with before the elections, and what type of Parliament we see after the European elections have taken place - essentially the type of parliament that is delivered here.”
“This is particularly important as, in trade matters, the European Parliament has co-decision powers. It is therefore in a position of real control. No EU policy can be signed off unless this parliament votes for it in plenary,” Dr Karim said.
“So as we go into the Euro elections, I’m really quite worried about what kind of Parliament will emerge because of the nationalistic winds that have blown, not just in Europe, but around the world. There doesn’t need to be a huge increase in the extremist parties to start creating friction and delays in the decision-making process. This is why a timetable is needed as soon as possible.”
The British MEP’s words follow an intervention earlier this year where he expressed his desire to see trade space created for the South Asian country in the wake of the Rohingya Crisis Bangladesh is currently facing, as well as a visiting delegation to Brussels last month for the 4th follow-up meeting of the Sustainability Compact.
Dr Karim stated to this group, which included Commerce Minister, Ahmed Tofail, that graduation from the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade status to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) was not to be taken for granted.