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‘Bangladesh now a trade-dependent country, not an aid-dependent one’

  • Published at 08:56 pm January 26th, 2021
File photo of Prof Rehman Sobhan - Mahmud Hossain Opu
File photo of Prof Rehman Sobhan Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Eminent economist Prof Rehman Sobhan urges the US to invest more in Bangladesh

Renowned economist and academician Prof Rehman Sobhan has described Bangladesh as a trade-dependent country, rather than an aid-dependent one, urging the United States to enhance trade and invest more in Bangladesh and other countries in Asia.

In its early days, US aid had accounted for 10-12% of Bangladesh’s GDP, he told a virtual event titled “Bangladesh-US Relations: Opportunities and Challenges,” organized by the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, a think tank, on Tuesday.

But, he added, at present aid from the US accounts for only 2-3% – $750-800 million – which is roughly equivalent to the tariff Bangladeshi RMG exporters have to pay for their products.

The eminent economist further said almost all developed nations had given Bangladesh duty-free and quota-free privilege.

The US gave the same privilege to 97% of the products, he said, but the 3% that do not have the privilege include RMG exports.

Also Read - ‘Trade, investment should dominate Bangladesh-US ties’

If the duty-free and quota-free privilege is given to Bangladesh, the two-way trade between the two countries will be roughly like the one between Dhaka and Beijing, observed the noted professor.

Prof Sobhan voiced his opinion in favour of removing the ambiguity with respect to GSP – Generalized System of Preferences – that was suspended in 2013.

“It [the GSP] is in the interest of Bangladesh,” he said.

Recalling from his long career, Prof Sobhan talked about the highs and lows of the US in terms of its influence over the world, saying that the North American country was no longer influential in this region like before.

It is China that has the influence now over the region, he reminded, adding that Beijing is now the largest trading partner of almost every country, including India.

The geopolitical games have been all played out and the US could now be benefited in Asia, including Bangladesh, through trade and investments, said Prof Sobhan.

Placing great emphasis on people-to-people relations, he recalled his role as a designated Bangladesh envoy during the Liberation War in 1971, and said that the people of the US and the Congress were the game changers in the wake of Richard Nixon’s hostile administration.

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