GSP to top agenda at next Ticfa meet
Bangladesh will urge the United States to restore trade privileges, at the second Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement meeting to be held in Washington on November 23.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and US Ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat announced the date from a joint press conference at the minister's secretariat office in Dhaka.
Ticfa, which Bangladesh signed with the US in November 2013, provides a platform for both governments to discuss trade and investment issues, areas of cooperation and settle bilateral trade disputes through holding regular discussions.
“We have prioritised the GSP issue on our agenda,” said Ahmed. “We have fulfilled all of the conditions given by the US. I am hopeful that we will get back the trade benefits soon after the meeting in Washington.”
“The success and implementation of Ticfa depends on the restoration of GSP to Bangladesh,” Ahmed said.
After the Rana Plaza building collapse, the US government suspended the GSP for Bangladesh in June 2013 citing serious shortcomings in workplace safety and labour rights.
Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, senior secretary to the commerce ministry, will lead the Bangladesh delegation to the meeting, while secretaries to the ministries of foreign affairs and labour and employment will also attend.
Bangladesh will also discuss issue such as the prospects of inclusion of the country in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, Ahmed said.
The 12-nation TPP led by the US was signed last month, which might come into effect in the next year or two.
Bangladesh's exports to the US have been maintaining steady growth even after suspension of the GSP because of the quality of garment products, Ahmed added.
In July-October, Bangladesh's exports to the US stood at $1.98 billion, which is 17 percent higher than the same time last year, according to the minister.
In the first Ticfa meeting held in Dhaka in April last year, the US discussed market access for goods and services, and the tariff structure on fire, electrical and structural equipment, as Bangladesh would have to import those items.
Matters tied to public tender specification, insurance of labour, cotton, diabetic drugs, currency exchange and delayed payment, and intellectual property rights were also discussed.
Other topics in the agenda included regional economic development, the steering committee of Ticfa on labour affairs, establishment of Ticfa women's economic employment committee and review of the Ticfa discussion.
At the media briefing, Bernicat said Bangladesh might regain the GSP status as the country progressed a lot in ensuring workers' safety at the factory level.
“The generalised system of preferences will be on the agenda of the Ticfa meeting, but at the same time, the future export potential of the country will also be discussed as some products, like pharmaceuticals, have good potential in the US,” Bernicat added.
“We will also discuss ways to make two-way trade more robust. We are two partner countries, we have shared values and the US is a friend of Bangladesh.”
She said restoring the GSP goes through a process, as it is not a political issue.
Although the GSP has little economic benefit, it has an impact in terms of reputation, she added.
However, Bangladesh's export growth to the US suggests that GSP is a far off issue, she said.
“So, Bangladesh should also discuss issues like on-time delivery of products, blue economy and connectivity in the Ticfa meeting.”