There is nowhere I would rather be U.S. Ambassador than Bangladesh at this point in history. As I near the one-year anniversary of my arrival in this remarkable country, I feel extraordinarily privileged to be part of the growing partnership between Bangladesh and the United States. The dynamic people I meet every day inspire me with their passion, ingenuity, and determination to succeed. They represent the best of this nation, promising to contribute to a bright future for Bangladesh, the Indo-Pacific region, and the world.
The Indo-Pacific region is one of the world’s most vibrant. Rich in natural beauty, fascinating history, vast resources and human capital, the region is poised to catalyze the world’s growth. That is why the United States, as an Indo-Pacific nation itself, is deeply invested here, with total regional foreign direct investment of nearly $1 trillion dollars. These kinds of investments are possible because they rely and build upon bedrock principles – peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation, open and transparent investment environments, and responsible, accountable governing institutions. This is the crux of our whole-of-government vision for the region, termed the Indo-Pacific Strategy. In short, the United States supports a free and open Indo-Pacific in which sovereign and independent nations like Bangladesh can prosper in freedom and peace, where every nation in the region – large and small – creates its own destiny, without ceding to one dictated by any other country.
Through this strategy we promote shared values, prosperity, and security. Our vision for the Indo-Pacific codifies what many of us already understood: the stability ensured by free and transparent governments, and the security promoted through an open and rules-based order have the potential to unlock trillions of dollars more of private sector investment in the region. And that means an unmistakable boost in opportunity and prosperity.
When we speak of prosperity, we speak of private sector-driven investment. No one country, through government funding or state-owned enterprise investment, can supply the $26 trillion of infrastructure investment the Asia Development Bank estimates the Indo-Pacific region will require in the coming years. But the private sector, alone and in partnership with governments throughout the region, can. Through the Indo-Pacific Strategy the United States seeks to unleash private sector investment to do what it does best: tap into this potential and spark economic growth, innovation, and long-lasting prosperity. In Bangladesh, the strategy focuses particularly on creating conditions to expand upon historic economic growth, tap into private investment, and encourage job creation in key sectors. Working side-by-side, exchanging ideas, and sharing best practices, U.S. and Bangladeshi partners can grow together in a global economy, creating opportunities to expand markets and take businesses to the next level.
Our embassy team works with the Government of Bangladesh to ensure the business environment is attractive to American private sector investors – and we congratulate Bangladesh on moving up eight places on the World Bank’s latest Ease of Doing Business index. We both know companies seek investment climates free of bureaucratic red tape, corruption, and poor labor conditions. Continuing efforts to strengthen Bangladesh’s processes and institutions will help curb these business risks and open new doors to trade and investment opportunities. Programs under the Strategy seek to unlock potential in the energy, infrastructure, and digital economy sectors that stimulate growth today and in the future.
Democratic institutions, respect for an international rules-based system, and sustainable economic development go hand-in-hand. In recent decades, when they adhere to international rules, laws, and standards, nations of all sizes have prospered in freedom and peace. Our Indo-Pacific Strategy is rooted in our conviction that renewing commitments to protect freedoms and promote democratic institutions will spur additional growth.
The Indo-Pacific Strategy’s vision of a stable, free, and open region also relies on shared security. To protect the shipping lanes vital to the movement of people and goods, we work with countries across the region through our Maritime Security and Bay of Bengal Initiatives. For example, equipment funded by these initiatives helps detect and deter illegal activities and the actors who threaten stability. As a key partner, Bangladesh is enhancing its maritime security capabilities, protecting its interests, and working with us to deter those who would seek to do harm.
It is important to stress the U.S. vision for common security and prosperity with our Indo-Pacific partners is an inclusive one. Our vision for a free and open region excludes no nation. We welcome constructive participation by all countries that uphold an international system based on clear, fair, and transparent rules. But when we see challenges to the free and open standards that have governed the Indo-Pacific in its historic growth, we will push back. A rules-based order, where countries adhere to international laws, rules, and standards, best allows nations of all sizes to prosper in freedom and peace.
American businesses have a proud history in Bangladesh. They create mutually-beneficial growth by introducing leading technologies and brands into Bangladesh markets, and generate export and other opportunities for Bangladeshi goods and people. Chevron not only provides Bangladesh the natural gas it needs to fuel its historic economic growth, but also invests in this country’s most precious resource: the Bangladeshi people. It employs thousands of Bangladeshis-95 percent of its workforce is Bangladeshi-and gives back to the community, offering hundreds of scholarships, teacher training, and educational supplies through its Quality Education Support Initiative. Coca Cola supports women entrepreneurs through its Women Business Centers across Bangladesh.
There are countless other examples of strong partnerships between American and Bangladeshi companies that benefit the United States and Bangladesh alike. The November 4 Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok gives us yet another opportunity to make these bonds even stronger. I look forward to leading a delegation of 17 Bangladeshi companies to the forum. I have no doubt we will find many new opportunities for American and Bangladeshi companies to partner together to bring even greater shared growth and prosperity, based on shared values, to the people of both our great nations.
Earl R. Miller is U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh