I am not in support of the fact that Bangladesh was left out of the GSP programme by the US. It smells of double standards. The reason behind Bangladesh's exclusion is her failure to fulfil the 16 conditions that the Obama administration had stipulated when it revoked the privilege two years ago because of poor standards of workplace safety and labour rights. But the conditions which are connected to the welfare of labourers should be fulfilled for our own interests.
Bangladesh is yet to implement rules under the new labour law. If these rules were implemented, then the interests of garment owners would have been curbed. Their interests are largely protected by a powerful lobby in the parliament and in the political arena. That is why the government was hesitant to implement these rules. As far as the question of why the law on export processing zones has not yet been reformed is concerned, I don't want to go into it without fully assessing its provisions.
Now concerning the motives of the US to exclude Bangladesh from the GSP, bear in mind that the US may have many geopolitical interests. For instance, the US may want to garner support of Bangladesh and India to encircle China. The US may also want to increase its military presence in the Bay of Bengal and other things like that. So the move by the Obama administration to leave Bangladesh out of the GSP may not completely be removed from the aforementioned motives. Other motives may be linked to putting political pressure on the Bangladesh government since the US has a history and a general policy of imposing its interests on sovereign states through economic manoeuvres. They do this as they please and sometimes, their actions backfire.
The commentator is Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka.