USTR team due on Sept 13 to discuss GSP

Dhaka cancels planned Washington visit

Nazmul Ahsan

A US delegation, led by assistant United States Trade Representative Michael J. Delaney, is due in Dhaka on September 13 for a two-day visit to discuss GSP-related issues and the US action plan.
The upcoming visit of the assistant USTR led to the cancellation of a planned visit of a Bangladesh delegation in Washington this month, aimed at holding a review meeting with the USTR office on restoration of the lost GSP scheme, commerce secretary Hedayetullah Al Mamoon told New Age on Tuesday.
“We are not going, they (USTR) are coming,’
Mamoon said. ‘Our planned visit to Washington DC has been cancelled on the particular purpose.’
A senior trade official in the commerce ministry said they had long been pressing the US authorities to restore the preferential trade benefit under the generalized system of preference.
However, the official said, the US remained blindfolded on Bangladesh issue; though the US Congress in May returned back the privilege in favour of 125 countries.
‘We want equal treatment from our largest trading partner, given our excellent bilateral relations with the US’ Mamoon said.
The ministry of commerce that coordinates the entire issue in relation to generalised system of preference restoration and implementation of the US GSP Action Plan is bracing for all out preparations ahead of the crucial meeting with Delaney to get back the lost trade facility.
‘We are ready, as we have implemented almost everything included in the US plan,’ Hedayetullah Al Mamoon said.
The review meeting could grill Bangladesh delegation members for the failure to finalise labour rules, based on the labour act, 2013 and lack of sufficient freedom of association and labour rights for EPZ workers, a senior trade official said.
The government failed to prepare the labour rules into nearly two years after the labour act was enacted, due mainly to strong opposition from businesses and different associations representing employers including Bangladesh garment manufacturers and exporters association, sources said.
The rules now await the clearance of the law ministry for the last three months after having spent one year lying in the labour ministry, sources added.
The US has long pushed the government for equal labour rights for EPZ workers, similar to those employed outside the zones in factories in the country.
Although the GSP brought negligible benefits to Bangladesh in terms of export earnings, as only five percent of the country’s exports going to the US market were covered by the zero-duty facility, it was important for the country’s image, observers said.
Garment exports grew 4.08 percent to $25.5 billion in fiscal 2014-15, which is 42 times the amount in 1984, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.

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