The hearing on the petition to revoke the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) facilities that Bangladesh enjoys for US market access was held at the Office of the US Trade Representative on Thursday morning local time.
The Bangladesh delegation argued why the facilities that allow
duty-free market access for some of its products should be retained.
representatives of the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial
Organizations (AFL-CIO) presented the case for revoking the
Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed led the Bangladesh delegation
at the half-hour-long hearing.
The hearing over, delegation member and
Jatiya Sramik League General Secretary Mohammad Sirajul Islam told bdnews24.com:
“We presented the government measures taken to address the issues that were
“The USTR officials did not say anything specific after the
hearing, but I think they were kind of assured by the measures taken by
“We are hopeful that the decision will go in our favour,”
Deputy Chief of Mission and Minister at Bangladesh Embassy in
Washington DC Muhammad A Muhith and Counselor (Commerce) Md Shafiqul Islam were
attended the hearing.
Shafiqul Islam told bdnews24.com that a decision
will come in June but he was optimistic too about retaining the
AFL-CIO’s Policy Specialist for Trade and International
Economics Celeste Drake led the arguments at the hearing.
inquired about such issues as whether the security measures are ensured in the
garment factories, whether the labours had rights to form unions, whether the
killers of worker leader Aminul Islam had been arrested and brought to justice
and whether the workers are getting fair wage.
Sramik League leader
Sirajul Islam said USTR was told that 141 labour unions had active role in the
readymade garment units and about measures over the murder of Aminul
He said the measures to prevent fire accidents in the garment
factories were also presented. “We also stressed the government’s sincerity in
developing the conditions of the workers.”
The hearing was the final one
on the influential AFL-CIO petition to the US government filed on Jun 22, 2007
to revoke Bangladesh’s GSP facility over concerns about labour
They demanded the cancellation of the facility alleging that
there were inadequate protections for workers in the readymade garment factories
and shrimp sectors.
The issues raised in the petition were constraints on
workers’ ability to freely associate, harassment of labour organisers, refusal
to register unions, firings of those seeking to create unions, and unsafe
working conditions, among others.
The hearing on Thursday was held in two
episodes. Celeste Drake addressed the hearing first, followed by the Bangladesh
The Bangladesh team also included Bangladesh Export
Processing Zones Authority (BEPZA) Executive Chairman KM Mominur Rahman,
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President
Shafiul Islam Mohiudding, Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation Chairman Sayed
Mahmudul Huq, Home Ministry Additional Secretary (Political) Kamal Uddin Ahmed
and Labour and Employment Ministry Joint Secretary (Labour) Faizur
The Office of the US Trade Representative where the AFL-CIO filed
the ‘worker rights petition’ accepted it for review on Sep 6, 2007 and placed
Bangladesh under continued review to monitor the progress towards a set of
worker rights benchmarks elaborated later.
participated at two hearings in October 2007 and October 2009. But the AFL-CIO
again submitted a petition in April 2011 saying progress remained elusive and a
third hearing was held in Jan 2012.
After the hearing, the USTR said that
the GSP facility to Bangladesh remained under review.
submitted a petition in Oct 2012 again mentioning that Bangladesh has not
fulfilled the commitments relating to labour issues after the last hearing held
in Jan 2012.
The USTR issued a notification on Jan 8, 2013 seeking public
comments on the effect of possible withdrawal, suspension or limitation of GSP
benefits on products imported into the US from Bangladesh before Jan
Bangladesh sent its written comments on Jan 29 about the measures
taken for the garment units' safety and ensuring labour
Bangladesh is the biggest single exporter to the US, but the main
export product – readymade garment – does not enjoy the duty-free
According to the Export Promotion Bureau, Bangladesh exported
goods worth $24 billion to the US in 2011-12 fiscal, which is about 21 percent
of the total exports and valued at around $5 billion.
In 2011, Bangladesh
enjoyed the GSP facility for exporting products worth about $26.3 million. Items
that enjoy the facility include tobacco products, sports gears, kitchen
appliances and plastic products.