BD to push for US mkt access, trade review

FE Today Logo BD to push for US mkt access, trade review

March 01, 2020

Bangladesh will press for review of bilateral trade with the US and market access there as the 5th Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA) meeting will be held in Dhaka on March 5, officials said.

Responsible business conduct and ethical buying practices will also figure prominently in the talks with the US.

Bangladesh will also seek implementation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement, support for its graduation and discuss the non-tariff measures faced by locally-manufactured pharma products.

On the other hand, the US will put high on the agenda the labour issues including workers’ rights and safety, legislative reforms and cotton fumigation requirement, the officials said.

A total of 18 issues will be there on the agenda — nine issues from each side.

The nine proposed issues by the US side include Bangladesh’s rice export subsidy, its policy about a cap on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the insurance sector, digital trade, investment climate and intellectual property rights.

A US trade delegation led by assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asia Christopher Wilson will attend the meeting.

The much-talked-about TICFA had been signed between the two countries on November 25, 2013.

Since then four meetings have been held — two in Washington and two in Dhaka.

When asked, a ministry official said a total of 18 issues — nine from each side — have been proposed for discussion.

“Our priority will be bilateral trade and fair prices for locally-made products exported to the US,” he noted.

After the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1100 people, mostly garment workers, the US suspended the GSP (generalised system of preference) facility for Bangladesh citing ‘serious shortcomings’ in safety and labour standards.

However, Bangladesh’s exports to the US market had not been hampered due to the suspension of GSP facility, as less than 1.0 per cent of the exportable items got that facility, sources said.

The GSP facility did not cover Bangladesh’s readymade garments (RMG), they pointed out.

The US is the second largest market for locally-made RMG products after the European Union market.

T-shirts, cotton trousers and shorts, pullover and lingerie are the major RMG items exported to the USA, according to garment exporters.

They stressed the need for a new partnership between the two countries through duty-free access for products made of US cotton.

Bangladesh’s apparel exports to the US stood at $5.93 billion in the calendar year 2019 against $5.06 billion in 2017, according to the US official data.

The RMG exports to the EU market accounted for $ 20.42 billion in the calendar year 2019, suggest BGMEA data.