Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday termed the suspension of GSP privileges, imposed by US in 2013, for Bangladesh apparel an unkind act.
She reiterated her call to the US to give duty and quota free access of Bangladesh apparel to expand country’s apparel industry, reports BSS.
Even sadder was when US in 2015 restored its GSP privileges to all South Asian countries, except Bangladesh, the premier said at the luncheon meeting hosted by the Business Council of International Understanding (BCIU) at Hotel Waldorf Astoria in New York of USA.
"USA would then be as fair as the 52 other countries, like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, Japan, India and the European Union that gives Bangladesh duty and quota free access to their markets," she said.
The prime minister said that it would be vital for the USA to give Bangladesh apparel duty and quota free access to its market in a bid to expand Bangladesh apparel industry, employ and empower more girls and help establish a modern society.
"Our two countries' (BD and US) bilateral trade reached US $ 7 billion last year. It could be more if the high tariffs and compliance issues on Bangladeshi apparel to US market were removed," the prime minister said.
She said it should be as Bangladesh is an LDC and as many other LDCs do not have these protectionist measures imposed on them by USA.
Hasina said that Bangladesh's main export to the USA is apparel; this industry employs 4 million workers, of which 90 per cent are girls from poor families. Their earnings have empowered them. Their contributions now provide better nutritional food, allow siblings to go to schools, and give them a respected voice at home. Their empowerment is also helping reduce poverty, control population growth and increase literacy.
"Significantly, this trend is supporting our fight against extremism and terrorism by transforming our society into a progressive one. For these efforts to succeed, it is vital for the US to give Bangladesh apparel duty and quota free access to its market. It would expand Bangladesh apparel industry, employ and empower more girls and help establish a modern society," the prime minister said.
Sheikh Hasina also urged the US businesses and investors to be a partner with Bangladesh in the journey of mutual profits and prosperity to further strengthen the two countries' friendship.
"As Bangladesh strives to achieve its aspired goals, I urge you to come forth and partner with us in this journey of mutual profits and prosperity ... importantly, such a lucrative partnership would also strengthen our two countries' friendship," she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh has the most liberal investment policy in South Asia. It includes protection of foreign investment by law; generous tax holiday; concessionary duty on import of machinery; remittances of royalty; 100 per cent foreign equity; unrestricted exit policy; full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit; to name a few.
Moreover, she said, around 100 Exclusive Economic Zones are being established with a dozen ready to receive foreign private labor intensive industries. Meantime, Bangladesh and the USA have signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty and the Convention on Avoidance of Double Taxation.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is ready for US investment in power, energy, especially renewable and green energy; shipbuilding and recycling; automobile and light engineering; chemical fertilisers; agro-processing; pharmaceuticals; ceramic and plastic goods; ICT; marine resources extraction' tourism; medical equipments; telecommunications and knowledge based high tech industries.
Sheikh Hasina said the relationship between the USA and Bangladesh moves to higher planes since she became Prime Minister in 2009.
"Today, our two countries have the best of relations. This is evident from the outcome of Secretary John Kerry's recent visit to Bangladesh. Indeed, our strategic Partnership is getting broader and deeper with time. This growing relationship is reflected in our two countries' business relations," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the American companies are still the largest investors. Last year, they invested half a billion or 25 per cent of the total FDI to Bangladesh.
Last year, Sheikh Hasina, said the total FDI into Bangladesh crossed two billion dollars for the first time and this indicates the confidence of foreign investors in Bangladesh, on its macroeconomic and political stability, and on its physical infrastructure development.
"Their confidence is also on the rise because of Bangladesh's huge potentials and energized drive to become a middle income country by 2021, and a developed one by 2041."
Sheikh Hasina said since her party formed government in 2009, Bangladesh's GDP annual growth rate have averaged 6.2 per cent plus, crossing 7 per cent this year; per capita increased by 65 per cent; inflation held 5.45 per cent; export earnings doubled over to over US $ 34 billion and remittances to US $ 15 billion. Foreign currency reserve increased to US $ 31 billion and Human Development Index yearly at 1.6 per cent, attainment of food and energy security, to name a few development indicators.
She said these led Bangladesh to achieve many of the MDG goals and Bangladesh is today a trade dependent country. Foreign Aid is now merely 1.5 per cent of Bangladesh's annual GDP. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon therefore, often said, "Bangladesh is today a role model of economic development."
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is also a progressive, secular democracy with a homogenous population of which 60 per cent is below the age of 40 and available at competitive wages.
"Bangladesh has gas, coal, water, fertile soil, and a fast growing middle class with increasing purchasing powers. It achieved Moody's Ba3 and Standard and Poor's BB with a stable outlook for 6th consecutive year," she said.
PM's ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, State Minster for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Mohammad Ziauddin, PM's Principal Secretary Md Abul Kalam Azad, NBR Chairman Md Nojibur Rahman, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations Masud Bin Momen, FBCCI President Abdul Matlub Ahmed and First Vice President Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin were present, among others.
Assistant Secretary of US Department of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Deshai Biswal, business leaders from different US companies including American Tower Corporation, Walmart, MetLife, Boeing, Chevron Corporation, GE, Coca Cola attended the meeting. –RH