US envoy discusses labour rights with Bangladesh law minister

The meetings are being held at a time when the US is consistently calling for free and fair polls slated for December this year or January next year.


June 7, 2023

DHAKA – US Ambassador Peter Haas yesterday discussed free and fair elections, the campaign processes, and “additional important priorities the US and Bangladesh share” when he met BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, said the US embassy.

He also discussed labour law reforms during his meeting with Law Minister Anisul Huq and Prime Minister’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman at the latter’s office.

The US embassy tweeted about the meeting with Fakhrul, but did not elaborate further.

The meetings are being held at a time when the US is consistently calling for free and fair polls slated for December this year or January next year.

On May 24, the US announced a visa policy for Bangladesh, saying it will restrict visas for those who will be found involved in vote rigging, intimidation or preventing free media. Anyone in the government, opposition, bureaucracy, law enforcement or even judiciary may come under the purview of the new visa policy, it said.

Besides, six US Congressmen on May 25 also wrote to President Joe Biden to take measures for stopping human rights violations and help ensure free and fair polls in Bangladesh.

Contacted, Fakhrul said he told the US ambassador that the BNP will not take part in any polls under the incumbent government as “free and fair election is not possible under its regime.”

He said he went to the envoy’s residence following an invitation from Haas and stayed there for around an hour. They discussed the current political situation, next election, and the US visa policy.

Fakhrul added that the party’s position over the next election is very clear and it was conveyed to the US ambassador.

He told Haas that US visa restriction is shameful for Bangladesh, but it was announced because of the “misdeeds and misrule” by the government and the state machinery.

He, however, said people of the country welcomed the move.

Law Minister Anisul Huq told The Daily Star, “We had a meeting with US Ambassador Peter Haas in the office of Salman F Rahman. We have discussed a proposal given by the US about the labour rights.

“I can say with a guarantee that we have not discussed any political issue.”

The minister did not go into details about the proposal from the US, which imports more than $10 billion worth of products from Bangladesh. The country has been critical of Bangladesh’s labour rights issues.

Salman F Rahman told this newspaper that they discussed labour law reforms the US has been talking about for quite some time.

The US envoy spoke of a uniform labour law for the Export Processing Zone and outside the EPZ, he said, adding, “We are discussing it and will decide later.”

Washington suspended GSP facility in 2013 following Rana Plaza collapse and has been seeking labour law reforms in Bangladesh.

Particularly, it has been pushing Bangladesh for removing barriers for trade unions and ensuring living wage.

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