US-Bangladesh trade relations: Insights from former US diplomat Atul Keshap

US-Bangladesh trade relations: Insights from former US diplomat Atul Keshap

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Prothom Hello ,

A business-friendly environment is the key to attracting FDI. When Washington talks about a business-friendly environment, apart from regulatory issues, the issue of corruption is also a major concern. The US-Bangladesh Council promotes competitive and transparent business in Bangladesh. So did you raise the issue of creating a more business-friendly environment during your discussions with Bangladesh government officials?

Atul Keshav: American companies are held to the highest standards of ethics and transparency by the United States government. We have severe criminal penalties for any improper business practices. And the U.S. government will go after companies that are found to be engaged in improper acts. As a result, our companies engage in the highest levels of ethical, managerial, and technical practices worldwide. We think this is good for our society, for our companies, and for our prosperity. It's good for countries around the world.

Every country is different. Every country makes its own sovereign decisions about how to determine its national path. But for Americans, we behave in a completely transparent manner. We talk about all legal compliance because legal compliance is very important. And if Bangladesh can create that kind of environment for American companies, I think you will see a lot of companies start coming here and investing in new areas.

Prothom Hello ,

You have repeatedly said that the first thing to be done is to put in place a policy framework to attract more and more investment and that too as quickly as possible. So can you elaborate in terms of the policy framework and what are the obstacles in attracting more investment from the US?

Atul KeshapBangladesh has some very promising features that very few countries have. It's a growing market, it's a growing economy. It has an increasingly skilled workforce. It has 700,000 freelance workers in the digital economy. It has a lot of advantages. There are other countries that would like to take advantage of you. But regulatory issues are important.

When companies invest in a country, they want regulatory and policy predictability and stability. If I'm a company executive, I go back to my investment committee and say, there's an opportunity in Bangladesh, we should invest a billion dollars, but this is a ten-year plan. The company investment committee will want to know if the regulatory, policy and tax environment is essentially stable so that the fundamental decision to invest is solid and valid throughout that entire time period. So predictability is really important.

The second is to provide a level playing field. Basically, treat foreign companies the same way you treat local companies, so that they can help your people on the path to prosperity.

Third I would say ease and speed of doing business, just being faster than your competitors so that you can attract more investment. There are a lot of governments that are very hungry for FDI. If Bangladesh can work on ease and speed, if it can work on predictability, and it can work on a level playing field, there will be a lot of opportunities.

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