USTR HEARING ON GSP
Dhaka must clarify position on slain labour leader, fire safetyStaff Correspondent
Dhaka needs to clarify its position on four issues to the United States Trade Representative which has threatened to withdraw the Generalised System of Preferences facilities for Bangladeshi products in entering the US market, officials said.
The issues are fire safety in garment factories, progress in investigation into the killing of labour leader Aminul Islam, child labour in the backward linkages of garment and frozen food factories, and labour right in the export processing zones.
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 the state of labour rights.
The deadline for Bangladesh’s response is January 31.
An inter-ministerial meeting at the commerce ministry on Sunday afternoon discussed the overall development to set the next course of actions in this regard.
Commerce secretary Mahbub Ahmed, who presided over the meeting, told reporters that they had reviewed the activities of the ministries and divisions for improving the labour rights situation in the past four years.
He said they would clarify the government’s position to the USTR by the deadline.
Mahbub pointed out that they had faced the USTR on a number of occasions since 2007 and been successful to retain the GSP facilities.
He ruled out the notion that there was a relation between the GSP and signing of the proposed Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement between Bangladesh and the US, saying the USTR did not mention any thing about the TICFA in its letter.
Commerce minister GM Quader at a separate function in the city observed that Dhaka was under pressure to sign the TICFA with Washington to continue enjoying the US GSP.
The minister said the government was giving due importance to the recent US threat for scrapping the GSP and was taking preparations to overcome it.
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. Exports of readymade garments to the USA that account for more than $4 billion are subjected to pay more than 17 per cent duty.
Products including tobacco, sports equipment, china kitchenware, and plastic materials from Bangladesh enjoy the US GSP facilities.
An official who took part in the inter-ministerial meeting said Dhaka already transferred the case of slain labour leader Aminul Islam to the Criminal Investigation Department as per a condition given by the US. The government also has taken initiatives to provide technical assistance to the garment factories in line with another suggestion of the US, he added.
The official said Dhaka was also in a suitable position on the remaining two issues.
Experts, however, are worried that the USTR move might frustrate local exporters’ bid for getting duty-free access of RMG products to the US. The process would face further difficulty and might influence the European Union to reconsider about its GSP facilities enjoyed by Bangladeshi goods, they said.
comments powered by Disqus