GSP loss to send strong, negative signal: Mozena
The loss of Bangladesh's GSP privileges in the US market will send a strong and negative signal to the world, US Ambassador Dan W Mozena said yesterday.
“If Bangladesh's GSP privileges are removed, I fear getting them restored would be a lengthy and arduous process,” Mozena said.
The US provides duty waiver for some selected products from different countries under the generalised system of preferences (GSP), introduced in 1976.
Bangladesh exported only $26 million worth of products in 2011 under the system, which covered only 0.54 percent of Bangladesh's total exports to the US, valued at more than $5 billion.
Analysts said although GSP covers a little of the total exports to the US, the cancellation of such facility will have a significant negative impact.
Other countries, where Bangladesh enjoys zero duty facility under GSP, might be influenced, they said.
The ambassador said the loss of GSP could disqualify Bangladesh from duty free and quota free access to the American market should the WTO succeed, as many expect, to provide such access to LDCs in the next two to three years.
“Bangladesh would not be able to reap this benefit in the American market for want of GSP privileges.”
Mozena was addressing a group of businesspeople at the eighth annual general meeting of the International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB) at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.
The IBFB is a platform of Bangladeshi and foreign business owners and executives.
In an effort to retain the benefit, a 15-member delegation led by Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed is going to Washington to attend a hearing at the United States Trade Representative (USTR) scheduled for March 28.
The American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) filed a petition to the USTR to remove Bangladesh's trade privileges under the GSP due to inadequate workplace safety in the country's garment and shrimp sectors.
This year's hearing will take place well before the schedule due the deadly fire at Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia that took lives of 112 workers on November 24 last year.
After the Tazreen fire, a group of US senators and the Chief of USTR Ron Kirk sent letters to the Bangladesh government, raising concern about the safety standards in garment factories.
The government already submitted a "position paper" to the USTR on January 29 and explained the measures it has taken to improve labour standards.
“The issues raised in the petition are real and serious: constraints on workers' ability to freely associate, harassment of labour organisers, refusal to register legitimate unions, firings of those seeking to create unions, unsafe working conditions, among others,” Mozena said.
The Bangladesh government and owners are endeavouring to address these concerns so they work to build a strong case for why these privileges should not be removed, he said.
“I believe that you, the members of IBFB, both individually and collectively, can make a difference in improving workers' rights and workplace safety,” he added.
Mozena also said when labour standards improve, everyone benefits -- both workers and owners.
He urged the businessmen to improve labour standards and working conditions in their companies and factories.
Mozena said 2013 will be key to Bangladesh's realising the vision of becoming the next 'Asian Tiger'.
He urged the political leaders for immediate cessation of political violence and early agreement among the political parties on a way forward to hold free, fair and credible elections.
Mozena said the second partnership dialogue between the US and Bangladesh will be held in Dhaka in May for discussing different bilateral disputes while the first such dialogue was held in Washington in September last year.
In 2012, the total exports from Bangladesh to the US were worth $4.91 billion, according to the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh.