Dhaka prepares to face USTR threatShakhawat Hossin
Dhaka is preparing to explain its position to the United States Trade Representative in response to the latter’s threat to withdraw the generalised system of preference facility for Bangladeshi products in entering the US market.
Commerce secretary Mahbub Ahmed said they would present Bangladesh’s position to the USTR in time despite the fact that less than one per cent of the country’s $5 billion export enjoyed duty-free access to the US market under the GSP in 2011.
He told New Age on Tuesday that they had taken the matter very seriously as it was linked to the workers’ rights.
The USTR has already informed the commerce ministry that it was considering withdrawing the GSP on the ground that Bangladesh was not taking steps to improve labour rights.
The deadline for Bangladesh’s response is January 31.
The GSP is a facility under which the US allows duty-free access to certain Bangladeshi products to its market. The USTR has been reviewing since 2007 the status of GSP-enjoying countries biennially.
Mahbub said they had already consulted other ministries including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prepare their response.
He pointed out that the matter was related to the labour right situation in Bangladesh. ‘We will explain the government’s initiatives in improving the labour rights,’ he said.
Bangladesh sent products worth $5.1 billion between July 2011 and June 2012 to the US market.
Exports of readymade garments accounted for more than $4 billion of the amount and that of frozen food $300 million. The US charges duties up to 20 per cent on those goods. Products including tobacco, sports equipment, china kitchenware, and plastic materials from Bangladesh enjoy the US GSP facility.
A senior commerce ministry official on condition of anonymity said the move by the USTR was disconcerting as the local exporters had for long been lobbying for duty-free access of RMG products to the US.
The process would face further difficulty, he said, suspecting that the US move might influence the European Union to reconsider about its GSP facility enjoyed by Bangladeshi goods.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers’ and Exporters’ Association president Mohammad Shafiul Islam said the country’s RMG exports would get a major boost once the US allowed duty-free access.
The country’s RMG export to the US will grow by 200 per cent in one go.
US ambassador Dan Mozena on Tuesday said his government would reconsider the plea of Bangladeshi RMG exporters for the GSP facility with a view to resolving the present crisis in this sector.
He made the assurance in response to a reporters’ query after a lecture on ‘President Election of US: Values of American Democracy’ organised by the political science department of Dhaka University at its Senate Bhaban.
Mozena said the GSP privileges would be reconsidered soon to resolve the existing crisis in the country’s garment sector.
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