Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday said Ticfa meeting scheduled on December 13 in Dhaka has been postponed as the USA is now going through the transition of power after the recent national election.
Usually the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) meeting is called to discuss bilateral trade issues between Bangladesh and the US to find out obstacles and ways forward to enhance trade and commerce.
The minister cane up with the announcement at a joint press briefing after a meeting with the US Ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, in the capital yesterday.
The scheduled Ticfa meeting would be held at a convenient time during March-April next year as the new government will take the office, said Tofail.
“I hope the trade relation would enhance under the new government and the Ticfa deal will move forward with essence,” said the minister.
“Our commitment remains and continues to expand trade and commercial operation with Bangladesh. The Ticfa talks always provides a good opportunity to look forward to expanding economic activities between our two countries,” said Bernicat.
By postponing the talks for early next year, there will be an opportunity for Bangladesh to engage fully with the new administration on these issues so that economic partnership continues to grow, said the US envoy.
Ticfa is a platform for discussion on partnership and security dialogue. Each government has a chance to go over the whole series of issues relating to trade and commerce, and Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is one aspect to that, added the ambassador.
“We hope Ticfa will continue long after the GSP is restored long after.”
GSP was suspended in June 2013 based on allegations like shortcomings in workplace safety and poor labour rights.
Talking on the GSP suspension, Tofail Ahmed said: “There was political reason behind GSP suspension and I hope there will have no political motive under the new government lead by Donald Trump.
In response to the minister speech, Bernicat said: “We absolutely disagree that there was a political basis for GSP suspension. We are working on helping fulfill a 16-item Action Plan that is the sole basis for restoration of GSP.”
The progress on safety and security of the 16 points Action Plan has been remarkable and continues, but there has not been the same level of progress in labour rights side, Bernicat said, replying to a question.
If a worker wants to organise a union, you should let them to do so. You have to follow the rules and law as it is written, said the envoy.
If a worker tries to organise, his boss does not have the right to discriminate against you even to fire and not to pay your compensation, she added.
“Our goal is to make sure that workers have the opportunity as by law to organise. If employers discriminate against workers trying to organise, action would be taken against them,” she fuhrer adds.
Denying the envoy’s allegation on labour rights, Tofail said the rights of workers is a vague term to me as they are always talking on the rights issues though they have witnessed progress during visit to several factories.
“We have visited several factories with the ambassador and the workers stated that they are happy with the working conditions and safety issues.”
In April 2013, Bangladesh has signed the much-talked-about Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) with the US to discuss opportunities and interests of bilateral trade and investment and identify and work to remove impediments to trade and investment sectors.
In the last fiscal year, the US-Bangladesh bilateral trade stood at $7.22 billion. Bangladesh’s export to the US market reached $6.22 billion while its import $1 billion.