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11 August, 2015 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 11 August, 2015 02:39:14 AM
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EXCLUSION FROM GSP PROGRAMME

Dhaka ‘disappointed’

Bangladesh needs to do more: US
HUMAYUN KABIR BHUIYAN

Bangladesh has expressed disappointment over a US decision not to restore the country’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility, which was recently extended to 122 other nations.  “It is, indeed, disappointing. We think we have done enough to get the GSP back,” a top government official told The Independent yesterday.
On June 29, US President Barack Obama signed a bill extending the GSP programme till December 31, 2017, making 122 countries and territories eligible for the trade benefit, according to the website of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). The bill came into effect from July 29. Although Bangladesh has been left out of the list of GSP recepients, other South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan, have been considered eligible to receive the trade benefit.
“A USTR-led interagency review has concluded that Bangladesh has made progress over the last year to address many issues, including fire and building safety inspections in the ready-made garment sector,” Ann B McConnell, spokesperson for the US embassy in Dhaka, told The Independent in an email communiqué when asked to comment on Bangladesh’s exclusion from the list of GSP beneficiaries.
“Further progress is needed, however, in areas such as unfair labour practices and implementing rules of the Labour Law before reinstatement of Bangladesh’s trade benefits under the Generalised System of Preferences,” she added.
 According to the Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015, reauthorisation of GSP provides retroactive benefits only to goods from a country that is a beneficiary of the GSP programme as of July 29, 2015.
“As such, this excludes countries such as Bangladesh and Russia that lost eligibility between July 31, 2013 and July 29, 2015,” states the USTR website.
The GSP is designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry into the US market for nearly 5,000 products from the 122 designated beneficiary countries and territories. The programme was not in effect from July 31, 2013 to June 29, 2015 due to the lapse of authorisation by the US Congress.
Following the suspension of the GSP facility to Bangladesh on June 27, 2013, for alleged non-compliance of safety and workers’ rights in line with international standards, the US administration provided Dhaka with a 15-point action plan to implement, so that Washington could reconsider the reinstatement of trade benefits for Bangladeshi products.
The US says Bangladesh has made progress in some areas, but it needs to do more with regard to unfair labour practices and implementation of Labour Act rules to get back on the GSP programme.
Bangladesh, however, argues that it has done almost everything required by the US Action Plan to regain trade benefits under GSP.
“Bangladesh is a highly compliant country. We have implemented almost hundred per cent of the action plan forwarded to us by the US,” said Commerce Secretary Hedayetullah Al Mamoon.
“There is some minor progress
to be achieved. We hope that in
the future, our sincere efforts will be recognised and reflected in their (US) decision-making with regard to the GSP,” Mamoon added. “We encourage the government of Bangladesh to continue to make progress, so that when the USTR revisits the GSP in the future, Bangladesh has an impressive list of accomplishments to present, such as the issuance of the Bangladesh Labour Act’s implementing rules, the completion of inspections and public data base, a transparent process for union registration and unfair labour practice investigations, and legal reforms for the EPZs (export processing zones),” the US embassy spokesperson said.  
“We hope that Bangladesh will see this as an opportunity to transform the apparel sector.  Never before have buyers, owners, workers, the ILO, development partners and the government engaged with each other as they are now doing to help Bangladesh effect fundamental changes to the apparel industry.  This cooperation is unprecedented – and it is good for business,” said McConnell.
“If the world knows that Bangladesh's workers can exercise their rights and do their jobs safely, then there will be increased potential for Bangladesh to export to other countries,” she added.
In 2012, the total value of US imports from Bangladesh under the GSP was $34.7 million, a fraction of the total trade between the two countries. The top import items included tobacco, sports equipment, porcelain and plastic products.
In 2013, the total trade between the two countries stood at $6.1 billion. The trade deficit, in favour of Bangladesh, was $4.6 billion. Bangladesh exported goods worth $5.4 billion to the US, while imports amounted to $712 million.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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