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US briefed on priorities

Ticfa council meet in Dhaka April 7-8

By UNB, DHAKA
20th-Feb-2014       
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Amid the US' concern on various issues related to Bangladesh's domestic affairs, Bangladesh has briefed the US officials in Washington about priorities of the present government to maintain a stable, prosperous and democratic country.
Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque met with senior US State Department officials including the Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Nisha Desai Biswal on Tuesday and briefed them on the issues - law and order, economic advancement and growth in business, democracy and good governance and regional integration, security and stability.
During the meeting, Nisha Biswal and Shahidul Haque also exchanged views about a wide range of issues involving the priorities of the present government in Bangladesh, labour rights and other pertinent issues, and role of Bangladesh in regional integration and goodwill efforts among countries of South and East Asia.
Referring to the hearing at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held on February 11, Nisha Biswal said that she wanted to portray US-Bangladesh relations to the Senate Committee in a balanced manner within a broader context, said a Foreign Ministry media release on Wednesday.
She said, though the January 5 election in Bangladesh has a low turnout, the US would continue to remain engaged with the government of Bangladesh working towards a stable, prosperous and a democratic country. Responding to Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque, the US Assistant Secretary asserted that violence has no space in a democratic political process.
Shahidul Haque reiterated Bangladesh's commitment to protect lives and properties of people of Bangladesh.
He also shared various programmes that have been undertaken to protect labour rights and to ensure workplace safety in the RMG sector. The two sides discussed extensively on regional integration and various regional and sub-regional arrangements including Indo-Pacific Corridor (new silk route), SAARC, BCIM and other triangular initiatives in the areas of hydropower, energy and connectivity.
Nisha Biswal emphasized that South Asia, as a region is a conduit between East and West Asia, and the United States expects that Bangladesh would continue its leading role in promoting regional cooperation.
Myanmar Issue
In a separate meeting, the US Senior Advisor for Myanmar Judith Cefkin briefed Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque about her recent visit to Rakhaine State of Myanmar. She said that the US would continue pursuing the government of Myanmar to address the citizenship issue of Muslim population to resolve the refugee and displacement issues which were originated in Myanmar.
Shahidul Haque reiterated that the issue of displacement across the border of Myanmar Muslims has its origin in Myanmar and therefore, the solution of the issue should be designed in Myanmar.
The Foreign Secretary had a joint meeting with the officials of the USTR (United States Trade Representative), Department of Labour and the Bureau of International Labour Affairs and briefed them on the progress concerning the rights of the workers and workplace safety in the RMG sector in Bangladesh and also exchanged views on the potential of strengthening of trade and investment relations between the two countries.
The US side appreciated the actions undertaken by the government in addressing workers' rights issue and hoping that the process would continue with same vigour. The US side has confirmed the dates for the first council meeting of TICFA in Dhaka on April 7-8 April.
In terms of US's broader economic engagement with Bangladesh, in late January, the United States-Bangladesh Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) entered into force. Meanwhile, the third Bangladesh-US Security Dialogue will be held in Dhaka on April 16 and the third US-Bangladesh Partnership Dialogue will be held in Washington DC in mid June.
Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque welcomed Deputy Assistant Secretary Atul Keshap for his visit to Dhaka in late February. Keshap is likely to be here in Dhaka on February 22 on a two-day visit.
At the meeting with Nisha Biswal, which was followed by a luncheon, Foreign Secretary was accompanied by Bangladesh Ambassador to United States Akramul Qader; Muhammad Abdul Muhith, Deputy Chief of Mission; and M Mahfuzur Rahman, Director General (Americas), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dhaka. Atul Keshap, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs accompanied Biswal at the meeting.

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