US election matters for Bangladeshi migrants



As the world eagerly awaits the result of the critical US Presidential Election, an obvious question arises — will it have any implication on US-Bangladesh relations with a change in regime or will it remain the same?

Analysts say if Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins, he will relax restrictions on immigration laws. However, any other policy which would apply to Bangladesh will remain largely the same.

“Because of Trump’s policy change, many Bangladeshis who have not been able to secure the legal status in the US will benefit if Biden wins. Many families who had been separated will be able to reunite eventually,” said former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain.

Sultana Rahman, a New York-based Bangladeshi journalist, estimated that about 90 percent of the Bangladeshis in the US support Biden.

Easing immigration laws will, however, mostly benefit Latinos and Indians, who make up a large portion of the immigrant population in the US, said Touhid.

He said traditionally, the US monitors democracy, human rights, labour rights and issues annual reports on that to create pressures for improving the indicators. This is a regular process and is not affected by who’s in power.

Asked if there will be any change in how the Trump administration had tried to advance the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) during his tenure, the foreign policy expert said one of the objectives of the IPS is to counter China with which US has been in a tough trade war.

US-China relations have reached the lowest in decades recently over the origin of coronavirus, tariffs, tension over Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. The US Secretary of State last month visited India, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Earlier, he joined a security dialogue with the foreign ministers of Australia, India and Japan in Tokyo. A military agreement was also signed between India and the US.

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun also visited Bangladesh and spoke of more trade and investments as the US wants to have Bangladesh on its side under the IPS, which speaks of a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific Ocean. 

Touhid said Bangladesh, at this moment, is not in a position to be part of a zero-sum game to choose between China and the USA. It will have to have relations with both the world powers and US will surely understand it.

Bangladesh welcomes US investments but also expects duty-free access for the RMG products to its market. However, that is unlikely because of strong African lobby in the US, he said.

Will the tough anti-China policy remain the same if Biden wins? Prof Lailafur Yasmin, of the International Relations department at Dhaka University, said trade war between the US and China has been in place for quite some time. This will continue, but its pattern could change if Biden wins.

In fact, China is also investing in export-oriented industries in other countries to avoid US tariffs, she said.

Lailafur thinks Bangladesh’s relations with foreign countries now do not depends solely on others but on Bangladesh as well, because Bangladesh has secured a position for its sustained growth, skilled workforce, infrastructure development, large market and the geo-strategic location between South and Southeast Asia.

About US immigration policies, she said the US, for its own interest, should ease immigration policies. Otherwise, it will lose its edge on research and development in all sectors in the future.

“If it has tight immigration laws, Bangladeshi students will be migrating to other countries for education, which is actually is happening now,” she said.

Some foreign affairs analysts think the US already faces an image crisis because of Trump’s approach towards foreign policy, including withdrawal of the Paris Agreement on climate change, handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and rhetoric on immigrants and African Americans.

“If Trump wins, the US’ traditional power on speaking for human rights and democracy of other countries will wane,” a foreign affairs analyst said.

 





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