Liz Truss, the former Foreign Secretary, has become the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), succeeding Boris Johnson.
Throughout his political career, Truss has been compared to Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, who is considered the benchmark of Conservative leaders. The new Prime Minister has taken office at a time when his country and the whole world are facing critical challenges with economic uncertainties. After taking the office, Mrs. Truss seeks to administer a dose of reaganomic to support the UK economy more broadly. She is committed to to borrow to finance tax cuts, freeze energy bills, slash EU regulations, and increase defense spending while pursuing free trade agreements around the world.
The inauguration of the new British Prime Minister has given a new start and could open up new opportunities for bilateral relations between the United Kingdom. and its partners around the world. Having a historic relationship with the UK, Bangladesh also hopes to seize this opportunity by seeking to strengthen bilateral relations to boost trade and investment.
Bangladesh has had a special relationship with the United Kingdom since its liberation war in 1971. The history of relations between Bangladesh and the United Kingdom is a testimony of partnership, brotherhood and deep understanding. Bangabandhu’s return to the soil of liberated Bangladesh on January 10, 1972 via London marked great moments in relations between Bangladesh and the United Kingdom. Millions of Bengalis will never forget the warm welcome and heartfelt hospitality of former British Prime Minister Edward Heath in receiving Bangabandhu at 10 Downing Street. Another unforgettable gesture was that the British Royal Air Force Comet Jet flew Bangabandhu home via Delhi on January 10, where his people eagerly awaited his return. The United Kingdom was among the first European countries to recognize Bangladesh as an independent state on February 4, 1972, which influenced other Commonwealth and European countries to recognize Bangladesh. Since then, the two countries have maintained warm relations – deepening multidimensional cooperation – ranging from economic issues to security issues.
Partly based on their colonial ties, Bangladesh has a thriving diaspora community in the UK. It is estimated that around 0.7 million Bangladeshi diasporas live in the UK as a vital connector in the growing economic, political and social relations. Bangladeshis show great enthusiasm for the representation of the Bangladeshi diaspora in British politics. Currently, there are approximately 100 British Bangladeshi Councilors and 4 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK. The community operates on 10,000 Bangladeshi restaurants, with an annual turnover of £4.5 billion. With the growing number of diasporas, the UK is one of the main sources of remittances for Bangladesh. In 2021, the UK was ranked 4e the biggest source of remittances from Bangladesh. The UK government has shown great understanding of Bangladesh’s challenge with more than 1.2 million Rohingya forced to flee Myanmar in the face of genocide. He has remained very proactive on the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar as a durable solution to the crisis.
With such a strong foundation and growing expansion of bilateral partnerships over the past decade, Bangladesh and the UK have created immense trade and investment opportunities.. With the presence of more than 200 British companiesthe UK is the second biggest investor in Bangladesh. The total cumulative UK investment is $2.5 billion. Also, UK is Bangladesh’s third largest destination market after USA and Germany. Currently, bilateral trade exceeds 4 billion US dollars. The UK has also been a major donor to Bangladesh for decades. Cumulative development assistance from the UK amounts to more than £3 billion. During recent bilateral meetings, tThe UK reaffirmed its commitment to help Bangladesh achieve a smooth and successful graduation and continue its export-led growth by providing duty-free and quota-free access to the UK market until 2029.
The trade and investment dialogue between the UK and Bangladesh has been tenuous for the first time on February 16, 2021. During the dialogue, the two countries discussed a series of issues such as GSP, LDC graduation, investment cooperation, access of Bangladeshi professionals to UK service sectors, trade facilitation, ease of doing business, financial sector development. , the supply of higher education, tax issues and the protection of intellectual property. Beyond manufacturing, UK investors can explore Bangladesh’s growing service industry, health and health tech, education and EdTech, FinTech and infrastructure which are very promising. For example, higher education in Bangladesh is another key area in which UK universities want to invest.
The UK government has launched a new scheme called the UK Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS) which offers a major opportunity to develop free and fair trade with developing countries like Bangladesh. This new British regime will offer more opportunities and less bureaucracy to developing countries, by simplifying rules of origin or reducing customs duties on imports. The post-Brexit UK has shaped its trade and investment relationship in a different way by adopting a more liberal and trade-friendly approach that leads to growth and opportunity. Many specialists to suggest that the two countries should sign a free trade agreement (FTA) to strengthen bilateral trade. In their opinionNow is the time to sign an FTA with the UK so that Bangladesh can take full advantage of any potential trade deal when Britain leaves the EU trading bloc at the end of 2022.
In the field of defense and security, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom have developed an innovative strategic dialogue initiative. As of 2017, the two countries held the fourth strategic dialogue on September 9, 2021 in London, UK, which encompassed the full range of bilateral relations between Bangladesh and the UK, covering political and diplomatic relations, global and regional issues, economic and development partnerships, as well as security and defence. The first one UK-Bangladesh Defense Dialogue was held in March 2022 as another magnificent forum to reflect on the growing bilateral defense relationship, established at the time of Bangladesh’s independence more than 50 years ago, which should be developed in preparation for the next 50 years of bilateral relations. During her visit to London in 2021, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addressed the issue of defense cooperation, aimed at meeting Bangladesh’s increased demand for defense procurement in line with the implementation of Strengths 2030 Goals. In particular, Bangladesh decided to buy five United Kingdom warships to protect its long maritime border in the Bay of Bengal. In addition, the expansion of the economic partnership is expected to further deepen diplomatic and strategic cooperation between the two nations.
As Britain’s new Prime Minister prepares to tackle her country’s looming economic challenges, she may seek renewed bilateral relations and free trade agreements around the world, as she is a free trade ideologue. In this scenario, Bangladesh – a South Asian tiger economy offers promising prospects for the new British government to strengthen its economic and defense ties. As Bangladesh’s continued high economic growth, empowerment of social sectors and political stability, and innovative and enterprising youth drive the country towards sustainable socio-economic development, the UK can offer a strong partnership. Such a partnership will also be beneficial for Bangladesh in achieving the “Vision 2041” of transforming the country into a developed nation, ie Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal).
Written by Doreen Chowdhury, PhD student at the University of Groningen.
Copyright: Fresh Angle International (www.freshangleng.com)
ISSN 2354 – 4104