GSP suspension to harm workers' interest: PM
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the US business leaders to pursue the US government to withdraw the decision of suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladeshi goods.
The GSP suspension, instead of ensuring GSP compliance and workers welfare, will affect the interests of the workers, she said in a meeting with a delegation of US-Bangladesh Working Group of US Chamber of Commerce at her hotel suite here on Thursday.
The prime minister said the suspension of GSP facility in the name of safety and welfare of workers, and compliance are not justified. The reason of suspension of GSP because of a few accidents is also not justified, she said.
"Such industrial accidents are frequently taking place in different parts of the world even in the developed countries," she said.
The present government soon after taking office has taken steps for increasing the salaries and other benefits of the garment workers and now the government has also initiated a process for increasing their salaries for once again, she said.
The prime minister informed the delegation about the government's steps taken for providing financial support to the families of dead persons and injured garment workers after Rana Plaza collapse.
PM's Media Advisor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury briefed reporters after the meeting. PM's Deputy Press Secretary Bijan Lal Dev and Director General (UN) Saida Muna Tasneem were present during the briefing.
The US delegation said they want to resolve the problems relating to GSP as they think, the decision of suspension of GSP was not proper on policy grounds. Hoping that the suspension order will go soon, the chamber leaders said they have already conveyed their opinion to the US government.
The meeting was a follow up of the last year's US-Bangladesh Partnership dialogue held in Dhaka from May 26 to 28 last year. The US trade leaders gave emphasis on high level dialogue business and government leaders to promote trade and investment with Bangladesh, Iqbal Sobhan said.
"Basically, the US business delegation said, Bangladesh is a growing market of US products and they want to promote trade and investment relationship with Bangladesh," he said.
The US delegation appreciated the leadership of the prime minister in promoting US-Bangladesh trade and investment relations and apprised her that they want to develop a state level dialogue between business and government leaders.
Pointing out their investment in power sector, energy sector and offshore drilling in Bangladesh, they said the US companies are conducting seismic survey in the energy sector. They hoped that through the seismic survey they would discover new oil and gas reserves in Bangladesh.
Appreciating the intension of the US business leaders, the prime minister said her government believes in private sector driven economy where the government is playing the role of a facilitator.
She said her government has opened up some sectors including power and telecommunications for foreign investment which enjoyed monopoly business by ruling party beneficiaries during the tenure of previous government.
The present government has opened the sectors for competitive private and foreign investment, she said, adding present investment climate in Bangladesh is healthier than any time before.
"Our government's policy is to put in place a liberalised investment policy in Bangladesh," she said with hopes that US investors and businesses would take opportunity of the liberal investment policy and invest more in different sectors.
Sheikh Hasina said the present government has attached importance to regional connectivity. As to why the foreign investors would get benefit of regional business if they invest in Bangladesh.
She said US businesses are working as the development partner of Bangladesh. Particularly, she mentioned that the US Foreign Direct Investment in Bangladesh was around US$ 25 million, which grew up to one billion US dollars during her five-year tenure from 1996 to 2001.
Last year, the FDI rose to US$ 1.3 billion with maximum from the USA, she said, adding, "It indicates healthy growth of the economy of Bangladesh."
US delegation also expressed their satisfaction over growth rate of Bangladesh and investment climate. The prime minister requested the Boeing representative to take all measures to complete the supply procedure of two Boeing aircraft by December next for which Bangladesh has already issued a buying order.
Bangladesh signed a buying agreement with Boeing Company for four Boeing aircraft out of which two were supplied while two others are waiting for delivery.
US chamber leaders informed the Prime minister that their delegation will visit Bangladesh soon to have bilateral discussions with business leaders and government officials and explore investment opportunities in different sectors.
They said Bangladesh is a growing market for US products and a good importer of raw materials. So they feel that the relationship between Bangladesh and USA in the areas of trade, commerce and investment should be promoted further.
In this regard, they said the US businesses want to continue the dialogue under the umbrella of the US-Bangladesh working group of US Chamber of Commerce. They also said the US chamber is considering a business dialogue this year like the previous year, and a delegation will visit Bangladesh very soon to formalize the procedure.
Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Ambassador at-large M Ziauddin, PM's Principal Secretary Sheikh M Wahid uz Zaman, president of Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Qazi Akram Uddin Ahmed, were present, among others.
The US chamber leaders handed over a report on "USA and Bangladesh toward the Future: Policy Recommendation to Strengthen the US-Bangladesh Commercial Relationship" to the Prime Minister.