US duties on Bangladeshi apparel an injustice
Imposing higher duties on apparel exports from Bangladesh to the US is not only inhuman, but also an injustice, as the US government receives lower tariff from other developing and developed countries, a UN official said.
Not only is the US imposing higher duties on Bangladesh at 16.72 percent, it also did not stand beside the nation after the Rana Plaza building collapse, the deadliest industrial accident that took the lives of more than 1,130 workers in 2013.
“Rather, as a punishment, the US suspended the GSP (generalised system of preferences) status for Bangladesh after the industrial accident,” said AK Abdul Momen, ambassador and permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, in an interview with The Daily Star last month.
The suspension of the trade privilege for Bangladesh just after the accident does not put the US in good light; it is also not expected from them as they showed their generosity towards Bangladesh in many instances earlier, he said.
Momen, who is also the president of the High-Level Committee of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, was in Dhaka to attend the 'High-Level Meeting on South-South Asia and Triangular Cooperation in the Post-2015 Development Agenda'.
"The magnitude of duty discrimination can be seen if we compare it to another country." For example, France pays 0.5 percent duty on exports to the US, but Bangladesh pays 16.72 percent, despite being a least developed country, he said.
After the Rana Plaza building collapse, members of the US Congress Grace Meng, Peter King and Joseph Crowley visited Bangladesh, but they did nothing positive for the country, he said. “I had hoped that the US would consider duty removal on garment exports from Bangladesh, in the interest of the poor workers.”
Bangladesh paid $860 million as duty to the US government upon exporting apparel worth $5.59 billion last fiscal year.
Of the total annual exports to the US from Bangladesh, apparel items make up for 95 percent. Bangladesh paid $4.1 billion as duty to US customs over the last five years.
The US has allowed duty benefits to the African LDCs under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, but they left Bangladesh out from such a benefit, Momen said.
Moreover, many countries will enjoy duty benefits once the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the US, comes into effect soon, he added.
He praised the government's achievements in workplace safety after the Rana Plaza building collapse. A free trade advocate, Momen said the US was a stalwart for free trade, but in case of Bangladesh, they did not show their real spirit.
He also talked about the contemporary global issues and development initiatives taken by the governments and the UN bodies.
On the illegal migration issue, he said the way some governments had reacted was appalling.
Illegal migration is not a new phenomenon; people will migrate from one country to another for better opportunities, which had also taken place in the US, he said. “People from many countries in the world migrated to the US, either legally or illegally.”
“If a small country like Bangladesh can offer shelter to more than 29,000 Rohingyas for years now, why can countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia not offer shelter to a few thousand people for a brief period, as the international communities are trying to resolve the crisis?” he asked.
The citizenship issue of the Rohingya people should be resolved as soon as possible, as people cannot remain stateless for long, he said.
On the issues of development and setting up the $100 billion worth BRICS Bank and $40 billion worth Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, he said the Asian nations will grow further for these moves, as they will have more funds for the improvement of basic infrastructure.
The Southern Asian countries like China and India have the capital, while the Northern countries should come forward to participate in the global development agenda, which will be a win-win situation for the people of the world, he said.
He said $5 trillion to $11 trillion will be required a year to attain the Sustainable Development Goals, which identified 169 problems under 17 areas that need to be solved in the next 15 years, he said.
Bangladesh should also diversify its exports, and reduce dependence on only one product -- garment -- for exports, as the country aims to come out of the LDC status by 2021, he added.
“I believe if the political leadership is sincere and committed for a better world for all, human ingenuity will surely come up with solutions that we all can be proud of,” Momen said.
The third Financing for Development Conference will begin in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on July 13-16, and global leadership will hopefully determine the ways of mobilising resources, he said.