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Dhaka Tribune

Duty, quota-free access to US market in 2 years

Update : 29 Jul 2017, 04:30 PM
The economic landscape of Bangladesh is likely to change, as the US is planning to provide the country with duty and quota-free access to its market, possibly within two years, under the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) arrangements. Officials of the US Trade Representative (USTR), US State Department and US embassy in Bangladesh had informed Bangladesh several times about the development, said a diplomat. Bangladesh, a least-developed country striving to become a middle-income country by 2021, exported $4.9bn worth of readymade garment products last year, against which the US importers had to pay $700m duty, according to the foreign ministry. The foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque in March had an extensive meeting with the USTR officials including the assistant USTR Michael J Delaney, where they notified him of the development, said another diplomat. “US Ambassador Dan Mozena also informed him about the development in February. It is the second term of the Obama administration, and before he leaves he will provide the facility to poorer countries.” Mostafizur Rahman, trade expert and executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said he is aware of the news. “It will be better if they provide us with the facility under the duty- and quota-free arrangement agreed upon at the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong,” he said. If the facility is given under a bilateral arrangement, the USTR will have discretionary authority, he said. However, he said, even if Bangladesh gets duty- and quota-free facility under the GSP scheme, it would be a great opportunity for the country. “Bangladesh should do whatever possible to address the GSP related concern.” The USTR is currently reviewing GSP facility for Bangladesh as an influential labour organisation of the US, AFL-CIO put forward a petition to suspend or scrap the facility on the ground of poor labour condition. Bangladesh needs to clarify its position to the USTR on the registration of Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, harassment of labour activists Kalpana Akter and Babul Akter, and amendments to the labour laws - 2006. Textiles and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddique said a meeting of cabinet committee on the RMG sector last week discussed the GSP related problems. The meeting of the committee, comprised of 11 ministers including the textiles minister, took note of it and asked all stakeholders to do whatever possible to retain GSP scheme, he said. The committee decided that the amendments to the labour laws would be placed before the cabinet on Monday. The concerns the US expressed are not illogical or inhuman and there is no problem implementing those, Siddique added. “The US side put forward its concerns in 2007 but the incidents of Tazreen fashion exposed our weak working condition.” The minister admitted that if the US suspends GSP facility for Bangladesh it might have negative impact on other countries especially in the European Union. “One must not feel complacent if the GSP facility is suspended or withdrawn as the duty-free facility cannot be availed without it,” commerce ministry official cautioned. If Bangladesh loses GSP facility in June this year it can file a petition for another review after June 2015 and the hearing might take place in 2016, he added. Bangladesh Ambassador to Washington Akramul Qader in recent months met several congressmen. He told them how much adverse impact it will have on four million workers, mostly women, if Bangladesh loses the GSP facility.
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