Bangladesh’s duty-free quota-free access to US market extremely unlikely: Ambassador
Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
Published: 2017-02-25 22:27:42.0 BdST Updated: 2017-02-25 23:48:20.0 BdST
Ambassador Marcia Bernicat has said that Bangladesh’s duty-free quota-free market access to the United States is “extremely unlikely” as it requires multi-country trade agreement and fulfilling the conditions of the GSP standards.
She said so far the US had offered the access to two “multi-country” trade agreements – one is to the poorest region Sub-Saharan Africa and the other for the Caribbean.
Third would have been the TPP, but that has been suspended by the new President Donald Trump.
“So, expecting duty-free quota-free market access, I would argue with you would be extremely unlikely outside of the multilateral agreement,” she said, talking to reporters on the sidelines of the Dhaka Apparel Summit on Saturday.
Before the ambassador’s comment, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed at a session in the daylong summit once again criticised the US for not giving market access and the GSP privilege back.
He also slammed the US for pressuring factories to form trade unions, though he said, many countries including the US do not have the required trade unions what they demand in Bangladesh.
“GSP is something that is law in the US that means our Congress established the criteria for what it takes to benefit from GSP,” she said.
She said there were 20 years old complaints about the conditions of Bangladesh’s labour sector that the government did not address. “When Rana Plaza happened, it is proved that safety standards were not being implemented. So, Bangladesh lost GSP.”
“You can call it pressure, but we call it eligibility,” she said.
“If you want to be a member of a club, you have to be eligible to be in the club. GSP has eligibility standards,” she said, adding that those standards were the same as required for duty-free quota-free market access.
Earlier, speaking at a session in the summit, the ambassador expressed her disappointment over the latest labour unrest in Ashulia.
She said she found that none of the factories that went on strike, except one, had unions. She said there could be unrest and strikes in factories, but there must have “means to help resolve those problems”.
“It does not have to be union…we never said that...but it has to be some mechanisms through which workers can communicate with their managers or owners”.
The commerce minister reacted to the ambassador’s comment and asked: “Why only Bangladesh? Why not Vietnam, China, India, Pakistan and other countries?”
He said the trade union in Vietnam is led by a minister. “Nobody talks about that. Nobody talks about China”.
He painted a rosy picture of the industry reforms after the Rana Plaza and lamented that nobody talks about that.
The government amended the Labour Law in less than two months after the Rana Plaza building disaster. “Nobody could do that”.
“US took 30 years to amend their labour law after the 1926 disaster. But we did within one month and 15 days.”
He said in the US only 7 percent of public sector industries have trade unions while 37 percent in the private sector. “We want trade unions, but the workers do not want to see outsiders as leaders of the trade unions”.
He also said that the industry owners invested huge money for overhauling the factories after the Rana Plaza collapse, but the price of their products did not increase.
“But nobody talks about that,” he said, amid huge applause from the audience dominated by Bangladesh RMG industries.
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