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Bangladesh market very attractive: US envoy

Published : 05 Feb 2023 10:41 PM | Updated : 06 Feb 2023 03:11 PM

US Ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas has said that the Bangladesh market is “very attractive” to the US businesses and for that reason, they recently opened a Foreign Commercial Service office at the embassy.  

“But at the same time, we hear apprehension from businesses that proposed new laws and regulations in the digital space will make it more difficult for them to do business here,” he said while speaking at a discussion on “Online Freedom and Business Investment in Bangladesh” at the EMK Center Dhaka on Sunday. 

He said the United States government does have concerns about the regulations for digital, social media, and over-the-top platforms the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Information have introduced, as well as the draft Data Protection Act, or DPA.  

“Because we value our partnership with the Government of Bangladesh, we have voiced these concerns directly with the government.  Before I describe some of our concerns though, let me be clear: we respect that Bangladesh will choose for Bangladesh,” he said 

“We worry the Data Protection Act, if passed with strict data localization requirements, may force some U.S. companies currently operating in Bangladesh to leave the market.  The online platform regulations will similarly dissuade companies from investing in their businesses here, if they face criminal liability for user content.   The consequences could have very negative effects for Bangladesh.  Over 2,000 startups could be put out of business, and services that Bangladeshis use millions of times every day could become inaccessible.  The culture of innovation so crucial to attracting business requires openness and freedom online.  This brings me next to the topic: human rights,” he said.  

“The United States recognizes the need to govern online content to protect end users and vulnerable populations.  This is no easy task. However, as we look at the draft online platform regulations, we are concerned about the broad definitions for what type of online content is deemed criminal.   We are also concerned about the recent announcement that 191 online news portals will be blocked.The ability to accept criticism and ensure freedom of speech even when that speech is unpleasant are hallmarks of a strong democracy.  

“The U.S. Embassy has heard from many civil society organizations and journalists.  They fear these regulations and laws will restrict fundamental human rights and freedoms. Likewise with the Data Protection Act.  We are concerned the latest draft of the DPA does not provide for an independent data oversight authority and that it includes criminal penalties.  While each country must design laws that apply in its local context, there are clear international standards we urge all countries, including Bangladesh, to uphold,” he said.  

 He hoped that the next draft of the Data Protection Act incorporates feedback from these many sectors, and that Bangladesh will be better for it.  

“We firmly believe that an appropriate balance between international data protection standards, economic connectivity, and individual rights will facilitate this country’s continued development.  We are steadfast partners of Bangladesh and want to see its success.”

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