Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday urged the visiting delegation of the United States Trade Representatives to reduce discriminatory duty on shipments of garment items to make Bangladeshi products more competitive in the American market.
Bangladesh pays the second highest duty for export to the US but as one of the least developed countries it was supposed to enjoy zero-tariff benefit from the American market, he said.
The duty structure for Bangladeshi products is discriminatory as other competing countries pay much less tariff on exports to the US.
Of the yearly export of Bangladeshi products to the US market, 95 percent are garment items. The average duty Bangladesh pays the US is more than 16 percent and the tariff on garment products is 15.62 percent, the minister told journalists after a meeting with Michael J Delaney, assistant US trade representative for South Asia, at his secretariat office in the capital.
Delaney has come to Dhaka to attend the first meeting of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) scheduled for today.
Ticfa is a platform for settling trade disputes between the two countries. The deal was signed in Washington in November last year.
Bangladesh paid $828 million in taxes to the US customs last year and $3.38 billion over the last five years since 2009, Tofail said.
Before the US scrapped Bangladesh's GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) privileges, the country enjoyed duty-free access for 97 percent of its export items. The main apparel item was not included in this duty structure.
Vietnam pays 8.38 percent tax, Indonesia pays 6.36 percent, China 3 percent, Germany 1.16 percent, India 2.29 percent, Turkey 3.57 percent and Hong Kong 1.25 percent on export of goods to the US market, the minister said.
“Now we are more careful regarding the workplace safety. After the Rana Plaza building collapse, no more industrial disaster took place across the country.
“We made substantial progress towards fulfilling the 16 conditions [set by the US] for regaining the GSP status. We have discussed the progress in the meeting,” the minister said.