The first meeting of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) between Bangladesh and the US is finally set to be held tomorrow in Dhaka, amid high hopes of getting trade benefits to the North American nation reinstated.
The meeting was originally scheduled for January, but the US kept deferring it.
“Our priority is to get our GSP status restored,” Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed, who will lead Bangladesh in the dialogue, told The Daily Star.
The US suspended Bangladesh's Generalised System of Preferences status on June 27 last year, citing unacceptable standards of labour rights and workplace safety.
While the country has shepherded a series of changes to win back the GSP status from the US, the usefulness of the scheme though was limited to begin with, as it did not include garment products that account for 95 percent of the country's exports to the US.
Ahmed hopes the country would be able to secure duty-free access for garment items as well via the Ticfa. Another important agenda is the current status on the commitment made by developed nations in extending waiver in trade in services to least-developed countries like Bangladesh at the ninth ministerial meet of the World Trade Organisation in Bali last December.
The US' current investment position in Bangladesh and how it can be enhanced will also be discussed, the commerce secretary said.
As for the US, it has drafted in a modest agenda comprising issues like the review of bilateral trade, progress made with the GSP action plan and US investment in Bangladesh, according to a senior official of the commerce ministry.
The US also plans to discuss market access for goods and services, tariff structure of fire, electrical and structural equipment, as Bangladesh will have to import them to ensure workplace safety.
The matters pertaining to public tender specification, insurance of labour, cotton, diabetic drugs, currency exchange and delayed payment and intellectual property rights, have also been lined up for discussion.
Regional economic development, steering committee of Ticfa on labour affairs, establishment of Ticfa women's economic employment committee and review of Ticfa discussion are also in the US agenda. Before the formal Ticfa meeting, the US delegation led by Ambassador Dan W Mozena will also hold a meeting with Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at his secretariat office today.
Michael J Delany, assistant US Trade Representative for South Asia; Mara Burr, deputy assistant of USTR for South and Central Asia; Jonathan Goldberg, international trade specialist office for South Asia; and Toby Glucksman, official of the department of commerce are also in the delegation.
In 2013, the country imported $712 million of goods from the US and exported goods worth $5.4 billion, according to data from the USTR. The US' goods trade deficit with Bangladesh stood at $4.6 billion in 2013.
The US' top export categories include machinery, cotton, yarn and fabric, electrical machinery, iron and steel, grain, seed, and fruit.
After a decade of waiting and observation, Bangladesh on November 25 last year signed the Ticfa, a platform for resolving trade disputes between two countries.