US-BD TICFA talks skip crucial GSP revival issue

Dhaka,  Sun,  28 May 2017
Published : 18 May 2017, 00:31:02
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US-BD TICFA talks skip crucial GSP revival issue

It's Congress' cup of tea: Bernicat
US-BD TICFA talks skip crucial GSP revival issue
FE Report


The third round of TICFA talks ended in Dhaka Wednesday without discussing the crucial issue of restoration of the generalised system of preferences (GSP) facility for Bangladesh's products on the US market.

However, US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Stephens Bernicat told newsmen that extending duty-free and quota-free market access is within the purview of US Congress which decides trade benefits.

Commerce secretary (in-charge) Shubhashish Bose led the host side at the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) meeting while US assistant trade representative Mark Linscott led the US delegation.

Briefing the press after the daylong US-Bangladesh trade talks Mr Bose said the two sides discussed ways of expanding of trade and investment between the two countries.

He said in the meeting the Bangladesh side informed the US side that the country's export to the USA declined significantly, even lower than the export to Germany. "We have discussed…how to raise bilateral trade."

Mr Bose said he sought US investment in Bangladesh's high-end fashion garment, telecommunications, technological, light engineering, and ICT sectors. "We requested making the schemes favourable for us so that our professionals can go there."

Replying to a query whether the issue of restoration of Bangladesh's GSP facility on the US market, which was cut in 2013, was discussed in the meeting, the commerce secretary answered in the negative.

"No, it has not been discussed," he said, without elaborating why.

After the collapse of Rana plaza which took lives of over 1,100 workers and injured many, the United States suspended the GSP facility for Bangladesh. Few months after the incident, Bangladesh signed the TICFA agreement with the US.

It was assumed that the GSP facility would be restored with the signing of the much-talked-about TICFA. However, even after three years of the signing, the US did not restore the trade facility.

"If you think that TICFA is producing specific results, you are missing the points of TICFA. Trade relations between countries are exceedingly complex," the US ambassador said in reply to a query.

Ms Bernicat said in the meeting the two sides talked various issues beyond readymade garments, like agribusiness, information technological sector, and many other services that can be exported.

Depending on one sector makes economy vulnerable, she said about the single-largest export industry of Bangladesh.   

Ms Bernicat said the US wants to reduce trade deficit with Bangladesh through raising export here. The two sides have discussed easing business, digital economy, computerisation which will ease cross-border trade, and making more transparent various trade-related systems.

Tariff and non-tariff barriers in Bangladesh also cropped up during the meeting, she said.

Ms Bernicat said they discussed labour reform, welcomed speedy resolution of cases against labour leaders, as well as how to address future situations.

Foreign secretary Shahidul Haque and labour secretary Mikail Shipar also spoke at the media briefing.

     syful-islam@outlook.com
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