GSP verdict this month: official
The United States Trade Representative may hand down the verdict, by this month, on whether Bangladesh will continue to enjoy the generalised system of preferences in the US market, an official said yesterday.
The USTR, the chief trade negotiator for the US president, was supposed to give the verdict in May, but later the date was postponed to early June, Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed said. The USTR is taking time to observe the developments after the Rana Plaza collapse, Ahmed told reporters at his secretariat in Dhaka.
“Now, I think the verdict may come by June,” said Ahmed, who led a 14-member Bangladesh team at a USTR hearing on the continuation of the trade benefit on March 28 in Washington. “I am still hopeful about a positive outcome from the hearing.”
The American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisation (AFL-CIO) and some senators put pressure on the USTR to discontinue the benefit.
The devastating fire at Tazreen Fashions that killed 112 workers in November last year prompted the AFL-CIO, the largest trade union in the US, and some other quarters to make the call.
Under the GSP scheme, Bangladesh enjoys duty-free benefit for some selected goods such as plastic products and ceramics, but the amount is only 0.54 percent of the country's total annual exports of $5 billion to the US market.
The GSP is important for Bangladesh, as any negative move by the US can influence other countries where Bangladesh enjoys the benefit, Bangladesh had said at the hearing.
On patent rights, the secretary said least developed countries will not need to pay for any patent rights for intellectual products until July 2021.
The TRIPs Council, the regulatory body for patent rights under the World Trade Organisation, has extended the tenure of a waiver on the rights for LDCs, in a meeting in Geneva on June 11-12, he said.
He said the tenure of the waiver under the TRIPs (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement was scheduled to end on June 30.
But the WTO agreed to extend the tenure as the LDCs, especially Bangladesh, negotiated desperately with the council, he said.
“Bangladesh's trade will be more competitive globally, as the country will not need to pay for patent rights, trademark and copyrights due to the waiver.” Pharmaceuticals will not come under the purview of the fresh extension, as the patent rights for the drugs were waived till January 2016 under the TRIPs agreement, he said.