US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy R Sherman, who arrived on Thursday, will raise issues related to Bangladesh’s political situation with the government and other interlocutors during her stay.
Sherman, accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal, will lead the US delegation to the fourth Bangladesh-US Partnership Dialogue during the plenary session. Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque will lead the home side.
“She (Sherman) plans to raise issues related to the political situation with the government and other interlocutors,” according to the US Department of State.
Soon after the city corporations’ elections in Dhaka and Chittagong, the US Embassy in Dhaka issued a statement saying, “We’re disappointed by widespread, firsthand, and credible reports of vote-rigging, intimidation and violence that have occurred at polling stations, and the BNP’s decision to boycott the city corporation polls.”
The US said it is important that irregularities be investigated transparently and impartially. “We call on all parties involved to work within the law and avoid violence at all costs. We condemn in the strongest terms any use of violence for political objectives.”
Dhaka is also prepared to reply to any queries regarding political issues at the two-day partnership dialogue, said a diplomatic source.
The working group meeting of the dialogue began at the state guesthouse Meghna at 10am. Senior officials from both sides, including Foreign Ministry Director General (DG) Mahfuzur Rahman, attended it.
“This year, we’ve broadened the discussion to include an emphasis on the environment, health and infectious diseases, and the blue (maritime) economy,” US Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat tweeted soon after the dialogue began.
“A tune-up for our two countries as we continue to refine our strategic engagement,” she said in another tweet.
Wendy Sherman and Nisha Biswal will be joining the plenary session on Friday, according to US Embassy in Dhaka.
Earlier Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque received them at the Hazrat International Airport in the afternoon.
The Partnership Dialogue is the premier forum for further expanding and deepening bilateral cooperation on the full range of bilateral and regional activities, including development and governance, trade and investment, and security cooperation, said the US Embassy statement.
The two sides will discuss the full range of our bilateral activities, including development and governance, trade and investment, and security cooperation, it said.
Apart from reviewing the progress and identifying areas for cooperation on bilateral, regional and international priorities, it is also expected to focus on the expansion of security, trade and development ties between the two countries apart from reviewing the labour conditions in Bangladesh, said a diplomatic source adding that climate and health issues will also be discussed.
The issue of restoring GSP — Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) — might also come for discussions.
In January this year, a USTR-led interagency review concluded that while Bangladesh has made progress over the last year to address fire and building safety issues in the readymade garment (RMG) sector, further progress is needed, including to address serious worker rights issues, before the reinstatement of Bangladesh’s trade benefits under GSP can be considered.
President Obama suspended Bangladesh from GSP in June 2013 based on Bangladesh’s failure to meet statutory eligibility requirements related to worker rights.
There will be a joint press conference on Friday morning at the same venue on the outcome of the dialogue soon after the event with a joint declaration.
The third annual Partnership Dialogue was held on October 28-29, 2014 in Washington, DC.
The two countries highlighted the growing bilateral ties between Bangladesh and the United States and affirmed that the relationship is based on shared values and common goals of the two countries and their peoples.
They also recognised that the Partnership Dialogue, established in 2012, presents an opportunity for the two moderate and pluralistic nations to engage in fruitful discussions towards a broader and deeper relationship. – UNB