Govt seeks greater market access to US
Bangladesh wants greater market access to the US in any format as a measure of preparations to face challenges after its United Nations status graduation from a least developed to a developing country in 2026.
Senior Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh is going to place the demand at an upcoming meeting on the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) in Washington on December 6.
Bangladesh and the US signed the Ticfa on November 25, 2013 to establish an annual forum to identify and address obstacles to increasing bilateral trade and investment. The fifth Ticfa Council was held in Dhaka on March 5, 2020.
"We want greater market access to the US in any format, be it under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) or not, as America is the single largest export destination for the country," Ghosh told The Daily Star over the phone.
"We want greater market access to the US in any format, be it under the Generalised System of Preferences or not, as America is the single largest export destination for the country," says Senior Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh
The GSP, one of the US trade preference programmes, used to eliminate duties on products from least developed and developing countries.
Currently, the US does not provide the GSP to any country. The tenure of the latest GSP programme came to an end in 2020 and the US Congress has not revived it since.
Currently, local garment exporters face a 15.62 per cent duty on export to the US market as the American government does not cut duty on garment import from any county.
The US is the single largest export destination for Bangladesh, taking in goods worth over $10 billion of which more than 95 per cent are garment items.
Apart from demanding revival of the GSP, Bangladesh will seek funds from US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).
The DFC website says it partners with the private sector to finance solutions to the most critical challenges facing the developing world today.
The funds are invested across sectors including energy, healthcare, critical infrastructure and technology alongside small businesses and women entrepreneurs to create jobs in emerging markets.
Moreover, Bangladesh will also demand that the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the US government's chief trade negotiator, provide duty-free facility to garment products made from imported US cotton after the LDC graduation.
Traditionally, the US government provides duty-free trade benefit only to some African countries under an African Growth and Opportunity Act.
However, a few years ago the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) proposed that the US provide duty-free access to Bangladeshi garments made from US cotton.
During the meeting. the issue of intellectual property rights will also be discussed, Ghosh also said.
Bangladesh will again urge the USTR to revive the GSP for Bangladesh once the US Congress adopts a new GSP programme for different countries in the near future, he said.
This is because Bangladesh has made improvements in workplace safety, which was one of the GSP preconditions, he said.
The USTR suspended the GSP facility for Bangladesh on June 27, 2013 citing poor labour rights and workplace safety following two industrial incidents.
One was the Tazreen Fashions fire that killed more than 110 workers in November 2012 and the other was the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 which killed 1,138 workers.
The then Obama administration also came up with a 16-point precondition necessitating improvements from the government and the private sector for the reinstatement of the GSP.
Bangladesh has amended the labour law and made improvements in workplace safety following guidelines of two international platforms, Accord and Alliance, and submitted the progress reports to the USTR twice for revival of the GSP.
However, the US government did not revive the GSP for Bangladesh, mentioning that further improvements were needed in labour rights.
The government continues to lobby the USTR, maintaining that a lot of improvements have been brought about in labour rights and workplace safety.
Before the suspension, Bangladesh used to export goods like dry fish, ceramics and tobacco items worth $24 million to the US under the GSP programme.