Indo-Pacific region 'needs huge investment'

Indo-Pacific region 'needs huge investment'
The Financial Express 5 Nov 2019

The Indo-Pacific region needs huge investment -- especially in sectors like energy and transportation -- to support and sustain its dynamic growth.

With 'significant' presence in energy sector in Bangladesh, the US companies are also interested in investing in the country especially in energy segment.

The US officials and business executives made the observations at the second Indo-Pacific Business Forum held on Monday in Bangkok, Thailand while highlighting a wide range of commercial deals and new efforts to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific.

They predicted that energy demand in the Indo-Pacific region would increase by 60 per cent by 2040.

The State Department and USAID invested nearly US$ 600 million since July 2018 in energy, infrastructure, digital, trade and governance programming.

And about one-thirds of the funds are for expanded trade and competitiveness activities in countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Mongolia, the Philippines and Vietnam, they told.

The forum was jointly organised by the US and Thai governments along with the US Chamber of Commerce and US- ASEAN Business Council and Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Some 200 US business executives and over 600 business executives from other Indo-Pacific countries including Bangladesh participated at the forum that took place during the three-day long 35th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit that began on November 02.

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller and a business delegation including leaders from American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh also attended the forum.

"The Trump administration, through a variety of efforts, is working with our partners around the Indo-Pacific to build better, fairer and more reciprocal relationships," said Wilbur Ross, secretary of US Department of Commerce, while addressing the inaugural session.

The forum, a key piece of US government's role as the preferred commercial partner in the region, will not only bring businesses to the region to further explore opportunities for growth but also will give countries the chance to access millions in future private investments, he noted.

"The Indo-Pacific has a massive need for investment in critical sectors like energy, transportation, and the digital economy," David Bohigian, executive vice president of US Overseas Private Investment Corporation said.

He added their focus is on mobilising private capital for projects that are built to last, respect the environment, create local jobs, ensure transparency, and protect national sovereignty.

Stressing the need for quality infrastructure in the region, Thomas R Hardy, acting director of US Trade and Development Agency said, they have been serving as an essential partner, providing the critical assistance and strategic planning to navigate projects from concept to completion.

Besides the forum, at a roundtable, Alice Wells, acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs of US State Department, said US companies are deeply interested in expanding trade and investment in Bangladesh-economy of which is growing with an increasing consumer class.

Terming the presence of US companies in Bangladesh, especially in energy sector, significant she referred to some ongoing projects.

The US officials said New York based GE Power announced a US$ 390 million power plant near Dhaka that would supply power to 0.7 million houses by 2022.

The company also developed US$ 350 million 600 megawatt (MW) natural gas power plant at Meghnaghat in Bangladesh that is expected to start commercial operations by 2021, they added.

Excelerate, a Texas based company, recently commissioned a floating storage and regasification unit at the Summit LNG terminal to double Bangladesh's LNG import capacity, building on the company's US$ 500 million investment in the Moheshkhali floating LNG terminal, they also said.

Coca-Cola announced investment plans of more than US$ 200 million in Bangladesh by 2024, the US officials disclosed.