GSP restored, but Bangladesh excluded

The US administration has renewed the GSP facility for the developing and least developed countries of the world after it remained suspended for last two years on expiry of the earlier legislation.
But surprisingly, Bangladesh is the only country along with Russia which was excluded from the list of 122 beneficiary countries for duty free market access of their export to the USA when the announcement of its renewal hit the global capitals.
The US Congress recently made new legislation for GSP facility and the Obama administration has put it back on track on July 29 on retrospective effect from the date of suspension two years ago.
Bangladesh was entitled to enjoying GSP facility from 1980 although its major exports to the USA remained excluded from the benefit, denying the real business opportunity that Dhaka can harvest under the concessional trade access.
The USA suspended GSP facility to Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013. Over 1200 workers were killed in that incident by the collapse of the factory building raising the safety and workers right to trade union major global concern.
Though Dhaka is not a big beneficiary of the GSP  in term of trade, its symbolic importance is quite high when Bangladesh exports to the EU nations are enjoying duty free export benefit for all products except arms.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed has denounced the US decision saying the government would not make any request to restore the benefits.
Tofail said there is no reason except political one for excluding Bangladesh. “Even a country like Pakistan, where the human rights are violated and the working condition is bad, was given the GSP.”
He said the country would look for accelerating the pace of external trade with neighbours, besides intensifying efforts to create new market in newer regions. “I am not interested at all in taking any more initiatives to get back the GSP. We have fulfilled almost all conditions given by the US. We have nothing more to do,” Tofail told reporters on Tuesday.
He however hoped that the US would reconsider its decision at the upcoming meeting of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement.
Major opposition BNP has blamed the government for poor diplomacy and fear that critical US policy to the present government may bring further setback to external trade and on other economic issues if the damage is not repaired immediately.
However, the access of Bangladesh’s major export to the USA, namely the apparel products would remain unaffected as exporters are paying standard import duty to the US customs to avail of its market.
The exclusion of Bangladesh resulted mainly from its apparent failure to fulfil all of the 16 conditions that the Obama administration had laid out when it revoked the privilege two years ago on grounds of poor workplace safety and labour rights.
The GSP programme promotes economic development by eliminating duties on up to 5,000 types of products when imported from the 122 countries to the US market.  Dhaka has some minor export items that the five thousand items cover.
Garment, which accounts for 95 percent of Bangladesh’s exports to the US, is not one of the products covered by GSP, which means there would not be deeper material losses in the short run for the country for being left out.
But experts like Sadiq Ahmed, vice-chairman of Policy Research Institute, a think-tank, fear that the US action may put out the wrong image of Bangladesh: that the country has unsatisfactory safety regime for garment workers. .
The beneficiaries of the new scheme include all South Asian nations such as India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan. Only Bangladesh remains excluded. It would pour in a damper on the country’s attempts to expand export basket and reduce its reliance on garment.
The sooner the country fulfils all the conditions, the better it is, and it is not only for gaining the GSP but also for ensuring rights for the workers, some economists said  sharing their views with the media on this issue.
They advised the government to improve the political level understanding with the USA like reducing misunderstanding on Grammen Bank to create the new condition. Tolerance to the opposition and giving democratic space to them, restoration of fair election and reducing extra-judicial killing are some other reason which need to be high on the agenda to improve the level of understanding with the USA, they said.

Source: Weekly Holiday

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