Bangladesh is likely to overcome the crisis in continuing GSP facilities in the US market as the country’s submission to the USTR (US Trade Represen-tative) hearing was quite impressive replying most of the queries adequately. The Bangladesh team, led by Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed, submitted the country’s position paper giving in details of the steps taken by the government with respect to labour rights and other compliance issues, sources in the USA confirmed.
The submission covers updates on the issues raised by the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisation American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisation (AFL-CIO) in their petition regarding to the country’s readymade garment (RMG) industry, Shrimp sector and Export processing Zones (EPZs) and also the major initiatives and development achieved so far in the industry. It also illustrates actions taken by the government and the private sector in order to improve workers rights situation and occupational safety in factories in Bangladesh. It also clarifies issued raised in the AFL-CIO petition and possible adverse effects of GSP withdrawal on Bangladesh, delegation sources confirmed.
The delegation, comprising members from related sectors, attended the USTR hearing held in Washington on Thursday and also
faced a volley of questions by the panel of judges and
satisfied the jury with their presentations.
Apart from the documents submitted for the hearing,
the judges’ panel also appreciated Bangladesh’s tripartite agreement signed to improve the work condition in the shrimp sector.
Very recently, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between Bangladesh Frozen Fish Exporters Association (BFFEA) and Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation (BSFF) and American Centre for International Labour Solidarity to achieve standard in the shrimp processing plants as per ILO Core Labour Standard and Bangladesh Labour Act 2006.
In the hearing process, the USTR had first asked the AFL-CIO to submit their documents in favour of their claims and then called the Bangladesh delegation for replies. Trade specialist Celeste Drake represented the AFL-CIO.
William D Jackson, deputy assistant of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for GSP, had chaired the judges’ panel comprised of six other members from different ministries.
The judges mainly asked questions related to trade unions in the industrial
sector and the factories
under Bangladesh Export Processing Zone authorities, work conditions and fire safety measures in garment sector and work condition in shrimp sector.
Earlre, the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, alleged serious shortcomings on the part of the Bangladesh government in meeting the GSP eligibility criteria related to workers’ rights.
A federation of international labour unions – AFL-CIO – has also alleged
deficiency in Bangladesh relating to labour’s right of association, right to recognize and bargain collectively and the right to acceptable conditions of work and the USTR to withdraw Bangladesh’s GSP facilities.
According to sources, the USTR had first asked the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisation to submit their documents in favour of their claims and then called the Bangladesh delegation for replies.
Trade specialist Celeste Drake represented the
AFL-CIO. “The presentation was good. We could satisfy queries from the panel and hope to retain the GSP facilities in the US market,” said Md. Mohammed Hatem, who attended the hearing in Washington.
When asked about the outcome, the newly elected BGMEA president Atiqul Islam also expressed his optimism. “We are hopeful,” said Atiq adding that the panel inquired about a number of areas including progress of Aminul Murder case, fire
safety and other compliance issues and were satisfied
with the reply.
According to sources, the USTR will soon send the outcome of the hearing to the US President Barack Obama and it is expected that the verdict of the hearing would be delivered by June. By statute, any change in trade benefits under GSP needs the President’s recognition.
The GSP programme grants duty free treatment to designated eligible products that are imported from designated beneficiary developing countries.
Once granted, GSP benefits may be withdrawn, suspended, or limited by the president of USA with respect to any products or with respect to any country.
In 2011, Bangladesh exported products worth
$26 million under the GSP system. This covered only 0.54 per cent of that year’s total exports to the US, which was $5 billion.
Source: The Independent