U.S. Statement at the Trade Policy Review of Bangladesh

U.S. Opening Statement at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Bangladesh
Geneva, April 3, 2019

as delivered by David Bisbee

Thank you Chair.  I would like to join others in warmly welcoming the participation of the delegation of Bangladesh.

The United States recognizes that acceding to the WTO can pose particular challenges for LDCs, but Bangladesh continues to meet those challenges and use WTO rules as an opportunity to enhance its economic climate. In fact, Bangladesh will soon be graduating from the group of LDCs and has set its sights on fast becoming a middle-income country. The United States commends Bangladesh’s commitment to bring its trade and investment regime into compliance with WTO rules.

While we already have a significant economic relationship – our two-way trade totaled approximately $8.2 billion in 2018 –noting that currently Bangladesh enjoys a considerable surplus in our two-way trade – over $3.9 billion annually. This is largely due to apparel exports, for which we are Bangladesh’s largest single country buyer. However, American companies are not just buying from Bangladesh; they are also the largest foreign investors in Bangladesh.  And as Bangladesh continues its progress towards graduating from LDC status to eventually becoming a middle-income country, we are confident that American companies will continue this partnership.  As Bangladesh increases development of infrastructure, energy, transportation, and the digital economy, American companies and technologies will be able to contribute to Bangladesh’s growth as long as Bangladesh continues to address the identified laws or policies that in one way or another inhibit trade or investment flows.  Some challenges our companies and investors face include the lack of regulatory guidelines for pharmaceuticals and medical devices, the lack of transparent government procurement processes, and localization requirements for data servers. Prompt notification by Bangladesh of regulations impacting international businesses will also go a long way toward creating a more transparent business environment.

During the period of review, Bangladesh announced policies to expand trade, investment, and economic growth, including, among others, the Import Policy Order 2015 – 2018, Drug Policy 2016, and continued progress on Digital Bangladesh.  The United States would also like to commend Bangladesh for ratifying the Trade Facilitation Agreement. Through U.S. Government assistance programs, we will continue to work on supporting legal, regulatory, and policy reforms needed to enable the Government of Bangladesh to meet its World Trade Organization commitments, including easing border controls and strengthening compliance.

Finally, on the labor front, after the tragedies in Rana Plaza and Tazreen, we saw effective public-private partnerships, with organizations such as the Alliance and the Accord, undertake work with the Government of Bangladesh on worker safety and worker rights issues.  We hope that these productive partnerships within the ready-made garment (RMG) and other sectors will once again flourish to provide mutual benefits.  Progress on these matters will remain critical to enhancing productive trade relationships globally.

The United States offers our questions and comments on Bangladesh’s trade regime in the spirit of constructive dialogue, and thank the Bangladesh delegation for their consideration and response.  In particular, we encourage Bangladesh to increase its efforts towards regulatory transparency and to make effective use of WTO notification procedures.

In closing, the United States appreciates this opportunity to participate in this discussion and looks forward to engaging with the delegation from Bangladesh. We support Bangladesh’s aspirations toward greater economic success and integration.

Thank you.