During her ongoing visit to the United Kingdom and France, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held an array of meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, apart from other heads of state and government.
London: The key focal point of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the United Kingdom was to attend the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Bangladesh is at the forefront of climate change and to a certain extent has worked vigorously to achieve green energy sources and other sustainable resources. A significant part of the landmass lies in the low lying Ganges delta which is very prone to natural calamities like cyclones and tsunamis. The government of Bangladesh has embarked upon a mission to use natural barriers to overcome this adversary especially reliance on the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans. Bangladesh has also committed to becoming the ‘Net Zero’ emission country by 2050, completely decommissioning its reliance on coal for energy.
Prime Minister Hasina’s visit also included an official bilateral exchange and a series of meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron when she headed off to France from the UK. She has also participated in the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF)-Commonwealth High-Level Panel Discussion on Climate Prosperity Partnership. Hasina has attended a meeting titled “Action and Solidarity-the critical decade” at the invitation of her British counterpart Boris Johnson. A high-profile meeting with Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and Bill Gates, the founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also took place. On November 2, the Prime Minister had participated in “Women and Climate Change” and “Forging a CVF COP 26 Climate Emergency Pact” sessions. As a beacon of woman empowerment especially in South East Asia, Prime Minister Hasina has always shone light on the concerns regarding women and children of the region. During the COVID-19 crisis, her government had actively participated to ensure that the fringes of the society like the readymade garments workers— backbone of the foreign exports— are not left behind and affected by the fatal disease.
The United Kingdom is the third-largest export destination of Bangladesh and the latter historically maintains a positive trade balance with the UK. During 2017-2018, a total of US$ 3,989.12 million worth of goods were exported to the UK which is 9.74% of total export.
PM Hasina also met with the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and speaker of Scottish Parliament Alison Johnstone as part of her official visit to the United Kingdom. In London, she has exchanged opinions with Rushanara Ali MP and Lord Gadhia along with British Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle. On November 4, the Prime Minister had inaugurated the “Bangladesh Investment Summit 2021: Building Sustainable Growth Partnerships”. This conference was held at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth centre, just a stone’s throw away from the British parliament. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles gave opening remarks and comments which were particularly applauded by the members present as he delivered part of his speech in Bengali. Both of them congratulated Bangladesh on its 50th Golden Jubilee Independence. The year 2021 marks the centenary celebrations of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It is to be noted here that Bangladesh gained independence after going through serpentine pathways of brutal barbaric bloodshed— 50 years ago from the clutches of the deep state of Pakistan.
The summit had various delegations from both British and Bangladeshi trade circles in the United Kingdom and beyond. A memorandum of under of understanding was signed in the areas of Information technology between the two countries as well. Bangladesh is seeking active British involvement and participation and its booming economy which is one of the fastest-growing in the region. The challenges of foreign investment and the mutual bilateral agreements were the primary focal points of discussion at the summit. Bangladesh is also actively looking to diversify its export portfolio to achieve its target of 2041 to become a fully developed nation. The British Bangladesh diaspora is a very vibrant part of the United Kingdom and will play an active part to achieve this goal of Prime Minister Hasina. The areas in which Bangladesh is very competitive are Pharmaceuticals, agricultural products as well as their huge investment stimulus to the information technology domain. It is expected that next year foreign multinational giants like LG and Hyundai will start production of various electrical appliances and cars for the export market of Europe and North America from Bangladesh.
The United Kingdom will continue to provide Bangladeshi exports with duty-free and quota-free access to the UK market till 2029 The United Kingdom has also congratulated Bangladesh for being recommended by the United Nations to graduate from its least developed country status in 2026.
Member of parliament from Portsmouth and Minister of Trade Penny Mordaunt addressed the conference Emphasising the deep historical bonds between Bangladesh and Britain and the potential for further deepening of the relationship going forward.
Indian origin Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon gave a keynote speech at the conference and highlighted how Bangladesh and its neighbours especially India who is also a very key stakeholder in the United Kingdom could work synergistically for mutual benefit and enrichment. Both India and Bangladesh share an inseparable umbilical cord relationship that has stood the test of time.
Meanwhile, PM Hasina also unveiled the cover of two publications titled Secret Documents (Vol i-ix) and Mujib & Introduction and inaugurated an art exhibition Bangabandhu and Britain: A Centenary Collection, during her visit to London. Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK Saida Muna Tasneem and her team had orchestrated the entire roadshow titled Bangladesh: The Emerging Asian Tiger.