THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate ReleaseMarch 20, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND PRIME MINISTER HASINA
IN JOINT PRESS STATEMENT
Prime Minister's Office
1:40 P.M. (L)
PRIME MINISTER HASINA: Distinguished members of the press, on behalfof the government and the people of Bangladesh, I would like to extend avery warm and special welcome to the President of the United States ofAmerica, his excellency, Mr. Bill Clinton, and distinguished members of hisdelegation. This is the first ever visit of a U.S. President toBangladesh, and it reflects the warm and friendly ties between our twocountries, as well as the qualitative formation that has been taking placein our relationship.
Let me also thank President Clinton for his decision to begin his tourof South Asia from the soil of Bangladesh. We are truly honored, Mr.President.
At this moment, I recall with gratitude the warm hospitality that wasextended to me by the President and the First Lady during my brief visit tothe White House in 1997. I'm proud to say that the father of the nation,Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, imbued by deep and abiding values offreedom, democracy and equality, achieved for us this nation. He laid thefoundation of Bangladesh-U.S. relationship.
We value the relationship. It is a matter of satisfaction that theseties have grown substantially. It was, therefore, a singular honor for metoday to meet President Clinton. He's an outstanding leader and statesmanof our times. We discussed our bilateral relations and issues of commonconcern, and I am happy to say that our meeting was fruitful andproductive.
We reiterated to the President that the government of Bangladeshshares the U.S. commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights, andfree market policy. Like the U.S., Bangladesh also believes in peace,security, and in proactive efforts to defuse tension everywhere.
We appreciate the President's efforts and initiative to bring theMiddle East closer to a lasting peace, and realize the important roleplayed by the U.S. in achieving peace in Bosnia, Kosovo and other regions.
We also discussed our bilateral trade with the U.S., which is ournumber one export market. Nearly $2 billion worth of goods were exportedto the U.S. in 1998 and '99. In this context, we explained to PresidentClinton the liberal economic policies and programs of the government, andalso discussed our proposal for increase of Bangladesh's quota ofgovernment exports, as well as duty-free and quota-free access ofBangladeshi products to U.S.
Regarding cooperation in energy, both our countries acknowledge theimmense potential in this sector and have decided to intensify ourcooperation. We have initialed two production-sharing agreements withUnocal and Pangaea. Bangladesh and the U.S. also signed a strategicobjective agreement, under which the U.S. would provide an amount of U.S.dollar, $30 million grant to achieve increased institutional capacity tomake decisions in clean energy development; improve -- environment; andincrease public support for energy sector reform.
In addition, we thank the President for the agreement signed betweenour two countries for reduction of debt and use of interest for localdevelopment activities under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act of 1998.This is a good beginning, and we requested the President for further actionfor cancellation of our debt under PL 480. A number of other agreementshave also been finalized where U.S. aid would be funding for this inBangladesh.
On the question of export of gas, our position remains that afterfully meeting our domestic requirements, and ensuring gas for 50 years foruse of future generations, the remaining surplus gas will be available forexport. Similarly, on the question of export of power, we maintain thatwith new gas fields being discovered and developed, we must find good usefor the gas. We will, therefore, welcome proposals that are commerciallyviable for the export of power based on our natural gas.
We also apprised President Clinton that Bangladesh could emerge as animportant center of IT industry in South Asia. Bangladeshi programmers,computer engineers and IT professionals could provide IT product services,taking advantages of the time difference between Bangladesh and the U.S.The U.S. could also provide necessary technical assistance andinstitutional support to Bangladesh for development of IT industry. Thiscould help create employment opportunities for the educated youth of thecountry.
We requested the President to expedite the deportation of the killersof the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Westressed that the killers have terrorist links and that they should not begiven refuge in the greatest democracy of the world, a country that upholdsthe rule of law. I am touched by President Clinton's sympatheticresponse.
We requested President Clinton to take steps to regulate the status ofBangladeshi nationals living in the U.S. without proper documents. I'dlike to thank President Clinton for the deep personal interest he has takenin the welfare and well-being of the people of Bangladesh. I am sure thatthe President's visit will be a milestone in our relationship and serve tohighlight the many achievements of Bangladesh and enhance its stature andstanding in the world community.
President Clinton extended an invitation to me to visit his greatcountry, which I gladly accepted. A date in October this year will beworked out for this visit.
May I now request his excellency, William Jefferson, President of theUSA, to say a few words now. Thank you, and the floor is yours.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Prime Minister, ladies andgentlemen, I am proud today to be the first American President to visitBangladesh. But I am quite sure I will not be the last. Though far apartgeographically, our nations grow closer every day -- through expandingtrade, through the Internet revolution, and through our shared interest inbuilding a world more peaceful, more tolerant, more prosperous and morefree.
Twenty-nine years ago this month, against extraordinary obstacles,Bangladesh began a lonely fight for existence that did not receive thesupport it deserved from many countries around the world. That strugglewas led by the Prime Minister's father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whosepassion and commitment united a people.
Despite many challenges since then, you have come together to build anation that has won the respect of the world. The United States admiresBangladesh as a nation proud of its Islamic heritage, proud of its uniqueculture, proud of its commitment to tolerance and democracy, and proud ofits participation in the world community. We are grateful for yourleadership in the United States, and your courageous example in sendingpeacekeepers to end the conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo. We particularlyhonor Bangladesh as the first nation in South Asia to ratify theComprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Finally, we are grateful for theBangladeshi Americans who are doing so much to enrich and to enliven bothour nations.
Today is only the beginning of a stronger partnership. The PrimeMinister and I discussed ways to strengthen our economic ties, whileensuring that future prosperity is built upon respect for decent laborpractices, the magnificent natural environment of Bangladesh, and a senseof responsibility toward the children who will inherit the future.
Today I am pleased to announce that our Agency for InternationalDevelopment will provide $50 million to Bangladesh and other nations inSouth Asia harness clean energy resources, reduce air pollution and fightclimate change. Bangladesh also will be the very first nation to receivefunding under a United States program that converts old debt to new fundingto protect tropical forests.
I'm also happy to announce that our Agency for InternationalDevelopment and Department of Agriculture will provide $97 million in foodassistance here, and today I'm sending to our Congress the renewal of ouragreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation with Bangladesh.
Anyone who looks at the map can see that this is a nation of greatrivers, from many sources merging together as they approach the Bay ofBengal. Today, from many sources of our different national traditions, wemeet in Dhaka to build our common future.
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. (Applause.)
PRIME MINISTER HASINA: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to call on a journalist, and then Iwill? Should we go to the Americans first or the Bangladeshis first? It'syour call.
Q Mr. President, what political and economic factors have convincedyou to undertake your first visit to Bangladesh? And would the UnitedStates consider favored nation to Bangladesh as a favored nation, whenIndia, Pakistan and South Asia are engaged in nuclear arms threats?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, you ask what political andeconomic factors encouraged me to come here. I think this is a nation witha very big future. This is a nation that chose to sign and to ratify theComprehensive Test Ban Treaty; a nation that has used its soldiers to goaround the world to help others make peace; a nation that I believe iscommitted to democracy, with a vigorous level of political debate insidethis country, as nearly as I can see, and a real commitment to thelong-term welfare of its children, and one in which we feel a great deal ofcommon interest. So to me, this was an easy decision to come here. Iwanted to come here. And I look forward to a longer and richer futurebetween the United States and Bangladesh.
Q Mr. President, there has been a lot of speculation that you'llconclude this trip by going to Geneva to meet with President Assad ofSyria. What is the likelihood of that? And would it be your expectation,if that happens, that your meeting would lead to a resumption of theSyrian-Israeli talks that were suspended in January?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I do intend to do that. When I leave -- when Iconclude my visits in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, I do intend to go toSwitzerland to meet with President Assad. And we'll just have to see whatcomes out of the talks.
But we have, now, we've worked very hard with the parties to get thePalestinian and Israeli track back going, and they're doing very, very wellindeed. And I think they have a lot of energy and a real plan for thefuture. And I think this is the next logical step. I don't want to undulyraise expectations, but I think that this is an appropriate thing for me todo, to try to get this back on track, so that our objectives of having acomprehensive peace can go forward.
Q My question is, how do you look at the Bangladesh politics?Thank you.
Q Mr. President, do you think that -- this is your first visit toBangladesh, where people are hard-working and sincere. Do you want to makeyour visit memorable by declaring a general amnesty for undocumentedcitizens of Bangladesh who are living in your country?
THE PRESIDENT: I think you asked about the Bangladeshis living in theUnited States. And I think one of you asked about what I thought aboutyour local politics. I think that the less I say about it, the better,except it certainly seems to be vigorous. And I hope it will be peaceful,because -- you may know that I have a few opponents back in the UnitedStates. We have vigorous political systems; that's what democracies areabout. But in the end you have to find constructive ways to resolve yourdifferences and go on.
Now, on the Bangladeshis in America, I have done what I could to makesure that none were unfairly treated. We have laws that govern this. Andit is true that we have allowed significant populations from places wherethere were virulent civil wars, and they were driven into our countrybecause they could not safely remain at home. And then they stayed in ourcountry and began to establish families and earn a living. And there were-- the Congress passed blanket provisions to allow them to stay.
Other people who come to our country in large numbers are basicallygoverned by our more general immigration laws. And there's a limit to whatI can do. I have already taken some steps there. But I said in my openingstatement, and I will say again, I think our country has been greatlyenriched by the presence of Bangladeshis and we have many BangladeshiAmerican citizens. One of them is here with me today -- Osman Siddiqui,who's our Ambassador to Fiji. And so I feel very good about the presenceof Bangladeshis within the United States. But I have to observe the lawsthat we have.
Q Sir, can you tell us what security concerns prompted you tocancel your trip to the village today? And are you confident it will nothappen again on this trip, particularly in Pakistan?
THE PRESIDENT: The answer to the first part of your question is, no Iwon't, because I don't think I can, I should. But let me that I thought itwas very, very important for me to come here. And I think it's importantfor the United States to see its friends and to work for a future. Iregret that I could not go to the village. And I'm delighted that thevillagers are coming to see me because it will give me a chance tohighlight something the American press has heard me talk about many times,which is that the whole microcredit movement in the world basically beganhere in Bangladesh with the Grameen bank nearly 20 years ago -- maybe morethan that now. And the Prime Minister and I talked about this.
I am honored that I will have a chance to see Muhammad Yunus again, tosee some of the villagers, and to try to highlight the important role thatI believe microcredit should have not only here in Bangladesh, butthroughout all developing countries in the world. The United States,through AID, supports about 2 million microcredit loans a year in otherplaces. So I'm delighted I'm going to be able to see the people from thevillage and to support this very, very important initiative in whichBangladesh is truly the world's leader.
Q Sir, and about the security on the rest of the trip?
PRIME MINISTER HASINA: I think we can -- we can stop here. Fourquestions already have been asked. And thank you very much. Thank youvery much. And, President, thank you very much.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER HASINA: Thank you very much.