THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER SHEIKH HUSINA
Today, in their first meeting since President Clinton's historic trip to Bangladesh in March, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Clinton renewed and strengthened the excellent ties enjoyed by our two democracies and expressed their conviction that U.S.-Bangladeshi relations should deepen and broaden in the years ahead. The two leaders also expressed satisfaction with continuing constructive consultations between government officials of both countries.
The United States and Bangladesh are two of the world's most populous democracies. In keeping with the commitment to democracy our two nations enthusiastically endorsed in Warsaw in June 2000, Bangladesh and the United States expressed their common commitment to the free and fair conduct of elections, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law. The President appreciated the Prime Minister's reiteration of her commitment to strengthening democracy and democratic institutions and the expression of her determination to further encourage efforts for independent election monitoring, particularly for national elections under a caretaker government.
The President expressed satisfaction and appreciation for Bangladesh's role in fostering international peace and cooperation, as well as the Prime Minister's efforts to reduce tensions in the South Asian region. The two leaders agreed it is essential for the United States and Bangladesh to coordinate positions on major issues that come before the United Nations Security Council and other international fora. Regarding the Middle East, the two leaders lauded the call, made at Sharm el-Sheikh, for an end to violence and resumed efforts toward peace. The President also praised Bangladesh's significant commitment to international peacekeeping. The Prime Minister assured the President that Bangladesh will maintain this commitment and will actively support a United Nations Scale of Assessment reform that will place that organization on a solid financial footing. The two leaders discussed their mutual interest in promoting greater cooperation in regional fora, such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The President pointed to the settlement of the Chittagong Hill Tracts conflict and the Ganges Water Sharing Agreement as excellent examples of peacemaking and dispute resolution in the region.
The President expressed satisfaction that Bangladesh was the first country in South Asia to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and reaffirmed the American intention to work for ratification of the Treaty at its earliest possible date. Both leaders welcomed the work of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's Preparatory Organization in establishing a seismic auxiliary station in Chittagong. They welcomed the extension of our bilateral Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy Agreement. The Prime Minister expressed Bangladesh's interest in participating in the United States' program to dispose of spent fuel.
The Prime Minister and President noted with satisfaction the significant improvement in U.S.-Bangladesh economic relations over the last several years, in which continuing development assistance has been accompanied by a rapid increase of American investment and an increase in bilateral trade. The President praised the rise of Bangladesh as a partner in development, a supporter of private/public partnerships, and a participant in the world economy. The leaders emphasized the positive effect the implementation of investor-friendly policies has on attracting foreign investment. The Prime Minister and President welcomed progress on the conclusion of negotiations on gas production and exploration in east-central Bangladesh. Given the important role that natural gas can play in Bangladesh's development, the two leaders applauded the work of Petrobangla and the United States Geological Survey in estimating Bangladesh's gas resources. The Prime Minister stated that these resources will be used to accelerate Bangladesh's economic development and improve the lives of its people.
The Prime Minister stressed that the garment sector has been an engine of growth in Bangladesh, providing employment to nearly two million women. Considering the importance of the textile sector in the economy of Bangladesh, the Prime Minister asked the President to provide more preferential access to Bangladeshi exports to the United States.
The two leaders shared their common commitment to continuing liberalization of international trade within the context of the World Trade Organization. Noting that the efficiency of Bangladesh's port facilities is a critical factor in enhancing Bangladesh's opportunities in world trade, the two leaders welcomed progress in negotiations for building a new container port terminal and expressed the hope that an agreement could be signed at an early date.
The two leaders discussed Bangladesh's potential in the field of information technology and the President invited Bangladesh to participate as a partner country in the Internet for Economic Development (IED) Initiative. They pledged to work for the early conclusion of a tax treaty between Bangladesh and the United States. Finally, the two leaders agreed to take steps to liberalize air services.
The President voiced his strong support for actions already underway in Bangladesh to improve the lives of the working poor, especially women. The Prime Minister and President expressed their joint commitment to promote internationally recognized labor rights and improve working conditions. They noted with satisfaction the work of the International Labor Organization in Bangladesh, supported by the United States Department of Labor. They recognized the pioneering role played by Bangladesh in efforts to eliminate child labor in the garment industry. They agreed on the global need to fight child labor and trafficking in women and children and expressed confidence in new international and United States programs that will address this issue in South Asia. The President applauded the Prime Minister's commitment to conclude the process of ratification of ILO convention 182 this year. The President encouraged the Prime Minister to establish internationally-recognized labor rights in its export processing zones, and affirmed the American commitment to assist in this process.
The United States and Bangladesh agreed to cooperate closely in the fight against international crime, narcotics trafficking and terrorism. The two leaders agreed to build on law enforcement cooperation with further training and consultation, particularly in combating crimes of violence against women. They recognized the need for improvements in Bangladesh's police force and prisons and agreed to explore ways in which police professionalism and prison conditions could be improved.
The President and Prime Minister noted with satisfaction that progress has been made toward the negotiation of an extradition treaty and agreed to facilitate an early conclusion of work on it.
On the environment, the leaders welcome the establishment of a Tropical Forest Conservation Fund, the first of its kind in the world, to enable bilateral debt relief to be used to preserve unique ecosystems and protect the global environment.
They welcomed the signing of an agreement to enable Bangladesh to participate in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) initiative.
They welcomed the Clean Energy Agreement signed by representatives of the two governments.
The two leaders expressed concern at the serious danger posed by arsenic contamination to the people of Bangladesh and noted the United States Geological Survey's work on the arsenic groundwateacr problem in Bangladesh, and the grants of the Trade and Development Agency and the National Science Foundation to conduct research in this area.
The two leaders encouraged cooperation between Bangladesh business people and investors and their American counterparts. The leaders remarked on the success of the newly reestablished Peace Corps program in Bangladesh and agreed to explore how this program could be expanded. The Prime Minister noted the interest of Bangladesh students in expanding opportunities for higher education in the United States. The Prime Minister and the President paid tribute to the contributions of Bangladesh immigrants to the United States in improving our commercial ties and cultural exchanges. Bangladesh traditions, heritage, and talents are a rich contribution to American life, further enhancing the growing relationship between our two societies.