Dhaka wants Ticfa before GSP appeal
Bangladesh prefers to sign the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) with the US before appealing for the reinstatement of GSP, Commerce Minister GM Quader said yesterday.
Usually, there is no system for appealing to the US for a reinstatement of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), a trade benefits facility suspended on Thursday over “serious shortcomings” in safety and labour standards.
The US itself will review the decision after six months of the suspension to evaluate the progress over commitments made at the consecutive hearings at the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington, Quader said.
The minister added he had started preparing the progress report yesterday on actions over the promises made to the USTR, the minister told The Daily Star over the phone.
“I ordered the officials to make the report within two days, but it might not be possible. It may take a few more days,” he said. “On completion of the progress report, I will place it before the cabinet. If the cabinet allows me to send it to the US government, I will do so.
“But the chances of the GSP restoration will be brighter if Bangladesh can sign the Ticfa as the country could appeal via this trade dialogue platform,” the minister said.
Quader said he would evaluate the progress over commitments made in the four USTR hearings since 2007, year of the first hearing.
“But here again I am saying Ticfa is not any condition for a reinstatement of GSP. Signing Ticfa will create only a platform to settle trade disputes between the two countries through holding dialogues,” Quader said.
The minister also claimed Bangladesh has also progressed significantly in some areas like appointment of factory inspectors, ensuring worker safety, factory vigilance by the government inspection teams, passage of 2006 labour law amendment and increasing wages for the garment workers.
The cabinet of the incumbent government approved the Ticfa draft on June 17.
A 13-member delegation from Bangladesh led by Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed attended the March 28 hearing at USTR, which directly negotiate with foreign governments to create trade agreements, to defend the country's position.
They attended the hearing because the largest trade union of the US, American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisation (AFL-CIO), together with some senators urged the USTR to suspend or cancel the GSP facility after the deadly Tazreen Fashions fire killed at least 112 workers in November.
The Rana Plaza collapse which claimed 1,132 lives in April intensified the pressure for suspending the trade benefit.