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Bangladesh improves in HR issue: Lu

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 16 January, 2023 12:00 AM
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Bangladesh improves in  HR issue: Lu

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Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu said on Sunday that he has a very positive discussion with the government of Bangladesh.

He made the remarks after a meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and other high officials at the ministry in Dhaka in the afternoon.

Responding to a question, he referred to the recent statement issued by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that recognised "tremendous progress" made by RAB in reducing extrajudicial killings.

The HRW has also appreciated the RAB for “respecting human rights” while performing its duties.

"We recognise this. This is an amazing work. It shows that RAB is able to carry out its counterterrorism efforts and important functions while respecting human rights," Donald Lu said.

However, Lu did not make any comment regarding withdrawal of sanctions against RAB and its former and serving officials. On December 10 in 2021, the US government imposed sanctions on RAB and seven of its former and current officials over human rights violations.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen also spoke on the occasion.

“We had a very honest and open discussion,” Lu said.

Regarding labour rights issue, he said this is an important issue for Bangladesh, for trade relationship.

Bangladesh to be first eligible country for GSP scheme

The US Assistant Secretary of State on Sunday said that the United States is working very closely with the government of Bangladesh regarding the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facilities.

He emphatically said Bangladesh will be the first country to be eligible for the GSP if the US Congress authorise the trade scheme.

The US diplomat said the Generalised System of Preferences is a trade advantage offered to many countries in the world by the European Union and the United States. Under the trade scheme, the US allows import of more than 5,000 goods from 122 least developed and developing countries with lower or zero-duty benefit.

"We are still waiting for our Congress to authorise GSP to any country. We are working very closely with the government. So, when it is authorised, the first country on the list will be Bangladesh," Donald Lu said.

According to the officials, the United States has renewed trade preferences for 122 nations around the world, but the USA suspended Bangladesh from its GSP in June 2013 after two major industrial disasters – Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse, citing serious shortcomings in labour rights and workplace safety.

The US introduced the GSP in 1976 under the US Trade Act of 1974. However, the GSP scheme has remained suspended for all beneficiary countries since July 31, 2013.

Earlier in the morning, the visiting US Assistant Secretary in a meeting with labour leaders said the United States is "committed" to continued cooperation with Bangladesh in its efforts to improve labour rights.

Donald Lu in his meeting with Bangladeshi labour leaders gave a patient hearing to the leaders who shared their experiences and concerns.

"The United States has made a commitment to democracy and human rights. We speak when we see problems when we can offer suggestion, we stand up for freedom of speech, freedom of expression," the US diplomat said, adding: "We look forward to moving very closely with our partners here in Bangladesh."

Donald Lu also had a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman on Sunday morning.

"One of the things that we were very proud of is our dialogue on labour rights. Such an important issue for Bangladeshi people, for our trade relationship, I had the honour of sitting down on Sunday morning with Salman F Rahman to talk about the way forward," he added.

"We can cooperate on the improvement of labour rights in this country," Donald Lu said, adding that he is "very confident" about the progress.

Regarding the Indo-Pacific strategy, he said, "It's just strategy, it's not a club. You don't join if you don't want to. The United States has expressed its desire to allocate more resources, and more attention to the Indo-Pacific including to Bangladesh."

The US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs had a meeting over dinner with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at his residence upon his arrival in Dhaka on Saturday night.

Vital issues of bilateral relations were discussed during Lu's over one-hour stay at the Foreign Minister's residence.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Ambassador Donald Lu during his separate meetings with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam, and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Sunday discussed entire gamut of bilateral and political issues of mutual priorities between Bangladesh and the USA.

They discussed on wide range of bilateral issues of mutual interests including trade and investment, development cooperation, defense, security, indo-pacific strategy, labour, human rights and democracy, said the Foreign Ministry.

Both sides also discussed the issue of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals including their repatriation and resettlement.

Ambassador Lu deeply appreciated Bangladesh’s humanitarian gesture extended towards over a million Rohingyas. He lauded on the progress made by the law enforcement agencies particularly Rapid Action Battalion in their performances.

Both sides acknowledged the current trajectory of excellent bilateral relations and wished to explore new avenues and approaches to increase bilateral economic cooperation and trade.

Ambassador Lu was highly appreciative of Bangladesh’s success in vaccinating entire targeted population where Bangladesh thanked US for providing more than 100 million vaccines.

US expressed their interest to work collectively in case of any such future crisis. Both sides agreed to continue maintaining this tie to enhance cooperation in other sectors while maintaining mutually inclusive partnership.