Thursday, 18 August, 2022
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Bangladesh-EU ties to grow significantly in next 10 years: Whiteley

European Union (EU) Ambassador and Head of Delegation to Bangladesh Charles Whitely has hoped that Bangladesh-EU ties would grow significantly in the next 10 years.

The ambassador attended the programme "Meet the ambassador," hosted by the Centre for Governance Studies (CGS) in collaboration with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Bangladesh Saturday.

Whitely noted that as Bangladesh is about to graduate from the least developed country (LDC) category, there will be changes in the country's current Everything but Arms (EBA) preferential trade agreement with the EU.

Bangladesh will gradually shift to the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) trade programme, which gives developing countries a special incentive to pursue sustainable development and good governance.

Eligible countries have to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labour rights, the environment, and good governance.

According to the ambassador, the EU delegation is now trying to develop political engagement with Bangladesh.

The EU is also interested in partnering with Bangladesh in the areas of security, maritime, energy, and climate change.

Regarding the trade and economy of Bangladesh, Whitely said he is working to raise European investment in Bangladesh, which Whitely said is still low compared to European investment in other Asian nations such as Vietnam.

He also stated that the success of Bangladesh's apparel sector must continue, and the green factories of the country are the real selling point of it in the European markets.

Whitely also said, for Bangladesh, there is potential for upside in startups, the IT sector, and niche markets such as bicycle manufacturing.

Regarding Rohingya repatriation, the envoy said it needs to happen as soon as possible. "Myanmar has not been held accountable for its genocidal actions."

The EU placed sanctions on Myanmar and suspended development assistance.

Regarding geopolitics, the ambassador said the EU is hoping for a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, and the current sanctions the EU has placed on Russia are in no way hurting the international food trade.

Also, Whitely said the EU is interested in expanding its footprint in Asia through its Indo-Pacific strategy, in which Bangladesh is a key partner.

About the EU's current plan for providing independent observers during the next national elections, the ambassador said: "I can only say that I don't know. There is nothing decided at this moment, and it's still 18 months away."

The discussion started with an opening speech from Manjur A Chowdhury, chairman of CGS and chairman of the National River Protection Commission.

In his keynote speech, Whitely gave a brief overview of the EU and its functions.

The conversation was moderated by CGS Executive Director Zillur Rahman.