Exports from Bangladesh to the European Union (EU) have more than tripled between 2006 and 2018. The EU is currently the main trading partner of Bangladesh, absorbing half of its overall exports.
The EU mentioned that Bangladesh is the source of more than 62 percent of all Everything but Arms (EBA) exports to the EU, and hence the largest beneficiary of the EU EBA programme.
This information was revealed in a joint press statement on the ninth session of the Joint Commission of the EU and Bangladesh, held in Dhaka on Thursday.
The programme was co-chaired by Paola Pampaloni, deputy managing director of the External Action Service of the European Union and Md Ashadul Islam, senior secretary, Financial Institutions Division, Ministry of Finance, Bangladesh. Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Huq and EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink, among others, attended the meeting.
At the session, both the EU and Bangladesh agreed to strengthen the economic relationship through increased trade and investment flows. Both sides committed to further enhance the regular EU-Bangladesh business climate dialogue to address impediments to more trade and investment from the EU.
The EU and Bangladesh agreed to develop a roadmap on some issues, strengthening compliance on labour and human rights.
The release said, "While good progress has been made on factory safety in the garment sector, many steps are still outstanding in the area of labour rights. The EU stressed that a fully empowered and resilient civil society, in all its diversity, is a crucial component of a democracy."
The EU raised concerns on human rights, in particular reports of 'extrajudicial killings' and 'enforced disappearances'. In response, the Bangladesh side reiterated its 'zero tolerance' policy to violations of laws and human rights by law enforcement agencies.
Deputy Managing Director of the external action service of the EU Paola Pampaloni said the EU would clearly continue to promise of its political and financial support to Bangladesh for the safe repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas to Myanmar.
Answering to a question, she said it is important for the EU that any repatriation of Rohingyas should be done voluntarily and in a peaceful way.
Replying to another question, she said for Bangladesh to avail the GSP plus facility is subject to fulfillment of some conditions.
The EU also reiterated its concerns regarding certain provisions of the Digital Security Act (DSA), and said that freedom of expression should be ensured. The Bangladesh side committed that no provision of the DSA will be used in any way that would limit freedom of expression.
The EU stressed the need for voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingyas to Myanmar. Bangladesh expects continued support on this issue.
Both sides expressed commitment to pursue accountability mechanisms through various multilateral initiatives for the crimes committed against the Rohingyas in Myanmar. The plan to relocate the Rohingya to Bhashan char was also discussed.
The Bangladesh side gave an assurance on the voluntary nature of the relocation and engagement with the international community.
The Joint Commission also discussed the progress on joint commitments in the context of the 'EU-Bangladesh Standard Operating Procedures for the Identification and Return of Persons without Authorisation to Stay', and agreed to further enhance cooperation in this area.
Financial Institution Division Senior Secretary Md Ashadul Islam said the meeting discussed a wide range of issues including governance, democracy, rule of law, human rights, economic and trade cooperation, Rohingya issue, preparations of Bangladesh for availing the GSP plus facility, necessary resource mobilization for implementing the SDGs.