The US-Bangladesh relations might get stronger with Joe Biden in the office, foreign affairs analysts have said.
The experts however said Dhaka needs to address its shortcomings in governance and human rights, the two issues that the new US administration will focus on globally.
They said Biden, a seasoned politician with vast knowledge on global affairs, intends to ease relations with countries with which the relations became strained under the Trump administration.
Biden has pledged to re-enter the Paris Agreement on climate change and reverse the withdrawal from the WHO — both steps taken under the Trump administration.
Under Donald Trump, the US had also begun a tough trade war against China.
Analysts said when the world will be reasonably stable, Bangladesh, a growing economy striving to expand its global reach and seeking to address regional issues like the Rohingya crisis, can effectively work towards its objectives.
Crucial areas where Bangladesh can expect positive outcomes include the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, Rohingya crisis and easing the US’s rules to facilitate the passage of a greater number of Bangladeshi immigrants to the US, they said.
ADDRESSING COVID-19 AND CLIMATE CHANGE
“Apart from handling it [the pandemic] better in the USA, he [Biden] is also likely to take a leadership role globally towards this end,” said M Humayun Kabir, former Bangladesh ambassador to the US.
If the US returns to the WHO, questions over China’s expanding role in the UN body will be addressed, he said.
Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of International Relations Department of Dhaka University said Bangladesh, as a WHO member, might benefit in terms of vaccine accessibility.
Prof Imtiaz said Biden’s vision for a greener world is good news for Bangladesh, which is at the forefront of climate change.
The country, which faces threats of salinity intrusion, inundation of large coastal areas and displacement of millions of people, should get support from the US and other industrial countries for adaptation.
Besides, promotion of renewable energy in the US and elsewhere means a reduction in carbon emission and its fallouts, said M Humayun Kabir, also chairman of the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute.
Since the influx of some 750,000 Rohingya refugees following the brutal military campaign in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, there has been little headway in the issue due to an absence of effective measures from the international community.
Humayun Kabir thought neither China nor the US put enough pressure on Myanmar, fearing perhaps the country would be driven closer to one of the two superpowers.
Trump had not attached much importance to it. However, the issue is likely to get sufficient attention from the Biden administration, which may try to handle the trade war against China in a manner other than building an alliance against the nation, he said.
“The Democrats have always been vocal against genocide and crimes against humanity. Biden is very likely to be strong in raising the Rohingya issue and seek a resolve,” said Prof Imtiaz Ahmed.
Analysts said US engagements with Bangladesh have increased recently. Holding of comprehensive economic partnership dialogues, signing of an open sky deal between and US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun’s visit in October are all signs of that.
Bangladesh’s political stability, continued growth, skilled workforce, rising middle class, improved infrastructure and connectivity, geostrategic location between South and Southeast Asia and handling of the coronavirus pandemic are all factors the US has noticed.
“Therefore, US companies are interested in investments in Bangladesh,” said Prof Imtiaz Ahmed.
Both experts said Bangladesh really needs to work sincerely to improve the climate for investment by removing bottlenecks — either bureaucratic red tape or taxation, or both.
“The blue economy especially is an area where US companies can come in and explore,” Humayun Kabir said.
DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Both experts said Biden, unlike Trump, will be vocal on democracy, human rights and labour rights, which is why it is important for Bangladesh to improve on those fronts.
“It is not that we will do it for America, but for ourselves. The US will then have less scope to speak on such issues and we can draw investments,” said Prof Imtiaz.
He said the US will be strengthening its relations with India, but is also likely to raise voice on India’s National Register of Citizenship and Citizenship Amendment Act — an issue that generated some level of disquiet within Bangladesh.