GSP denied, US still has concerns over Bangladesh labour reforms

Brajesh Upadhyay, Washington
Published : 10:30, Sep 14, 2018 | Updated : 15:53, Sep 14, 2018

Bangladesh-USACiting its concern over labour reforms, the United States has once again denied Bangladesh’s trade privilege, commonly known as the Generalised System of Preferences, in the US markets.
At the fourth meeting of the US-Bangladesh Trade and Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA) in Washington DC on Thursday (Sept 13), the two sides renewed their commitment to enhance their trade and economic ties but there appeared to be no change in the US stand on the issue of GSP.
“The United States particularly noted its concerns on overall labour reform and expressed its hope for ongoing collaboration with the private sector on worker safety,” according to a statement issued by the United States Trade Representative.
Bangladesh was suspended from the GSP program in 2013 as a result of concerns over workers’ rights and safety shortly after the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed over 1,100 people, most of them garment workers.
The GSP is a US trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories. However, garment exports are not eligible for duty cuts under the program and despite the discord over the issue; the US continues to be the single largest export destination for Bangladesh. The two-way trade between the two countries in 2017 was worth $7.2 billion US dollars.
In the meeting, Bangladesh sought US cooperation for implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and also special request was made for expanding market access for Bangladeshi goods to the American market, and increasing duty-free market facilities in light of WTO’s Bali Ministerial decisions.
“Bangladesh also requested the US to facilitate access of Bangladeshi nurses and midwives and easy access to other service sectors,” according to a statement issued by Bangladeshi embassy spokesperson Shamim Ahmad.
The delegation further highlighted the various steps taken in the country towards creating a favourable investment climate and sought more US investment in Bangladesh.
The US representatives discussed expansion of US exports to Bangladesh, particularly cotton and medicine, and also focused on enabling a digital economy, protection of intellectual property and transparency in government procurement.
TICFA, signed by Bangladesh and the USA in November 2013, provides a mechanism for both governments to discuss trade and investment issues and areas of cooperation.
The meeting was co-chaired by Mark Linscott, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for South and Central Asian Affairs and Shubhashish Bose, Bangladesh’s Secretary of Commerce.
The 12-member Bangladeshi delegation also included Secretary to Ministry of Labour & Employment Ms. Afroza Khan, Executive Chairman of BEPZA Maj Gen Mohammad Habibur Rahman Khan, Bangladesh Investment Development Secretary Moinul Islam, Director General, WTO Cell Md. Munir Chowdhury, Member of National Board of Revenue Prakash Dewan and senior officials of the Commerce and the Foreign Affairs Ministries.