Though it is early days yet, if the opening exchanges are anything to go by, the incumbent administrations in Dhaka and Washington (following the recent change in the latter) are off on the right foot, in terms of cultivating a relationship that serves the interests of both sides.
This was transmitted from the start, in the early outreach from the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, appointed to the post by his old friend from the Senate, Joe Biden. Clearly, climate change presents itself as the most obvious sphere for the two countries to cooperate and unequivocally back each other, now that Washington is officially acknowledging it again. This was further reiterated by the announcement this week that Mr Kerry is set to travel to Bangladesh to invite Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to a special Leaders' Summit on Climate to be convened virtually by President Biden later this month, involving 40-odd states.
Signalling it is back in a big way in the most pressing universal issue of our time is obviously high on the agenda for a Democrat administration, with even talk of a Green New Deal not quite on the fringes of the American left these days. Holding rotating presidency of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a platform of the nations most affected by climate change, Dhaka clearly has a role to play in this, and is likely to be at the centre of a transatlantic courtship in the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow later this year. It must make the most of the opportunity for itself, and the Forum it presides over.
The central role of the climate also shone through in the latest edition of the Cosmos Dialogue this week, where a distinguished panel of speakers, chaired reliably as ever by Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, convened to deliberate on the US-Bangladesh relationship. The discussion covered the gamut of issues, from the economic to the geopolitical, but converged on the climate as the one issue every speaker touched upon for its wide-ranging implications.
Before the pandemic hit, two-way trade between the two countries touched a record $9 billion, with the US remaining the largest single-country export destination for Bangladeshi products. Meanwhile at its height, a consignment from Bangladesh of 6.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment, or PPE, was described by the US ambassador as “the first major shipment of PPE into the US.” The long-discussed US-Bangladesh Business Council is also very close to reality now, with the US Chamber of Commerce set to host its launch in the coming week.
It all goes to show the sheer potential of a relationship grounded in strong economic ties to benefit both countries. And as long as big ideas like the Green New Deal are finding currency, it would in fact be beneficial to think of the fight against climate change as potentially constituting an economy unto itself.