Leaders of Bangladeshi American Democratic Caucus, a platform of non-resident Bangladeshis in the USA, yesterday sought cooperation of congressmen in the reinstatement of a trade privilege -- generalised system of preferences -- that was blocked last year.
They also demanded duty-free access for Bangladeshi garment items to the US market.
The demands were made during a series of meetings held in the USA with 12 congressmen or their representatives. “As a Democratic Party Caucus, one of our intensions is to play a complimentary role to positively contribute towards the development of Bangladesh while strengthening US-Bangladesh bilateral relations,” Nazmul Hassan, president of the platform, said in a statement.
“The US is the largest market of Bangladeshi garments and Bangladesh is a strategic ally of the US. We want to help the people of Bangladesh so that the people of America can buy the best quality garment products at an affordable price,” he said.
More dialogue between Bangladesh and the US is important to resolve any garments-related issues like the GSP privilege, duty-free market access, worker safety and labour unions, he said.
Congressman Sander Levin in the statement said the US administration is deeply committed to protecting the rights of the workers by enforcing provisions for labour unions.
“Bangladesh must promote healthy worker unions protecting interest of the workers. The burden is also on US consumers to pay a little more and support the cause for promoting health, welfare and safety of the workers,” Levin said.
Bangladesh can create a new standard for the global garment industry by successfully transforming its own industry -- one which contributes greatly to eradicating poverty and empowering women, outgoing US Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena said in another statement.
The government and owners must stay the course to transform the apparel sector, to make Brand Bangladesh the finest in the world, and to ensure that Bangladesh takes its place as the world's largest apparel exporter, he said.
The caucus leaders met congressmen Sander Levin, John Conyers, Gary Peters, Chris Van Hollen, John Dingell, and representatives of congressmen George Miller, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chris Van Hollen, Mike Honda, Keith Ellison, Gerry Connolly and Rush Holt.
The Obama administration suspended the GSP for Bangladesh in June last year, citing serious shortcomings in workplace safety and labour rights.
Currently, Bangladeshi garment exporters pay 15.61 percent duty on exports to the US.
In 2013 garment exporters paid $828 million as duty to the US customs for exporting a little above $5 billion worth of products.