Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed demanded duty-free access of Bangladeshi garment items to the US market at a meeting with US Trade Representative Michael Froman on Wednesday in Washington.
Ahmed also demanded reinstatement of the trade privileges as the government has made tremendous progress toward ensuring labour rights and improvement of workplace safety in the last one and a half year.
Nearly 97 percent of Bangladeshi-origin goods enjoyed duty-free access to the US market until the suspension of the generalised system of preferences for Bangladesh in June last year, in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse.
But garment, the country's main export, had always remained out of the GSP purview, subjecting garment makers to 15.61 percent duty in the US markets.
Bangladesh paid $746 million in duty to the US customs for exporting a little above $5 billion worth, the country's annual average, of garment items in 2012.
Before suspension, Bangladesh used to export 0.54 percent of its total export, or $26 million, under the GSP scheme to the US in a year.
“Duty-free market access of Bangladeshi apparels into US markets can boost the ongoing progress of the RMG industry that has employed more than 3 million women in the sector, bringing about positive changes in women's empowerment, child and maternal health, education and other socio-economic sectors,” Ahmed said in a statement issued by the Bangladesh embassy in Washington.
Ahmed also briefed US officials on Bangladesh's progresses made in the Action Plan for regaining the GSP to the US market during the Washington meeting.
Bangladesh has taken a series of actions to improve worker safety and labour rights in the garment industry including amendments to labour law and formation of trade unions, Ahmed said.