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USTR review on GSP for Bangladesh negative

Fresh deadline till April 15, next review in May

Nazmul Ahsan

A US review of Bangladesh’s meeting an action plan for the reinstatement of GSP facilities projected a negative outcome as the plan was not fully implemented.
Bangladesh has now been given till April 15 to comply the plan as the US Trade Representative will review the compliance next in May, a senior foreign ministry official said.
Bangladesh lost GSP facilities on the US market in June 2013.
Foreign and commerce ministries of Bangladesh received the review report in the past week, officials said. USTR officials handed over the report to the Bangladesh mission in Washington on February 5.
The report urged the government to implement the action plan, suggesting  further amendment to the labour law
so that workers in EPZ factories could have the right to association and collective bargaining as workers outside export processing zones.
‘Although the government of Bangladesh made some positive amendments to the labour law in July 2013, the law needs further amendments to address the most serious concerns of the ILO supervisory bodies. Moreover, no action has been taken to date to bring the export processing zone law into conformity with international standards, which has been an issue in GSP reviews going back to the early 1990s,’ reads the report which New Age has obtained.
The GSP subcommittee of the inter-agency trade policy staff committee conducted the review, based on the progress report on the action plan that Dhaka had sent to Washington in November 2013.
The GSP action plan highlighted three major issues on EPZ workers and their rights.
The plan says that Bangladesh should repeal the EPZ law or commit a timeline to expeditiously make the EPZ law conform to international standards so that EPZ factory workers could have the right to association and collective bargaining.
The government should issue regulations which, until the EPZ law has been repealed or changed, will ensure the protection of EPZ workers’ right to association, including by prohibiting “blacklisting” and other forms of exclusion for labour activities.
Until the EPZ law is repealed or changed, the government should ensure transparency in the endorsement of the current EPZ law and the same inspection standards and procedures as followed elsewhere in the apparel sector.
The report further said that the government failed to make any progress in improving labour, fire and building inspections as no mechanism had been put in place on how the government and other stakeholders would address such issues.
The subcommittee in its report sought adequate evidence justifying that the government was not intimidating labour activists.
The commerce secretary, Mahbub Ahmed, said that they were serious about a full implementation of the action plan by the fresh deadline.
‘There is nothing to worry about. We are serious about implementing the whole of the plan so that GSP facilities are reinstated for Bangladesh apparel products on the US market,’ Mahbub told New Age.
A Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority official said that a move had been taken to make a new law for EPZ workers allowing them the right to trade unionism but not to strike.

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