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No further initiatives to regain GSP, says Tofail

70Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed on Tuesday described the non-restoration of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) by the US as ‘unfortunate’ and mentioned that it is only politics, not other reasons, behind depriving Bangladesh, reports UNB. Talking to reporters in the capital, he also said that US decision forced him showing no interest in taking further initiatives to regain the GSP as Bangladesh was deprived of the facility despite fulfilling most of the conditions tagged by the US.
The minister, however, hoped that the US will consider the issue at the upcoming TICFA meeting. Alleging that many countries do not want the growth of Bangladesh, Tofail said, “Even Pakistan, where the human rights are violated and working condition is bad has been given the GSP.” The minister came up with the remarks following Bangladesh’s exclusion from the list of 122 countries which were given the GSP facility by the US recently. GSP is a trade scheme under which the US allows import of more than 5,000 goods from 122 least developed and developing countries with lower or zero-duty benefit. On June 29, 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill (HR 1295), that reauthorises the GSP through Dec 31, 2017, according to Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
This excludes goods that entered from Russia, which formally graduated from the GSP programme on Oct 4, 2014, and any other countries that are no longer eligible for GSP benefits, such as Bangladesh. Under the new
law, duty reductions under the GSP programme will begin 30 days after the law is enacted, which took effect on July 29, 2015. It also extends duty reductions retroactively for any goods entered in between July 31, 2013, and the effective date.
Bangladesh’s apparels have been enjoying duty-free benefits to majority of the developed and developing countries. But Bangladesh’s apparels do not enjoy duty-free benefit only in US market. In January this year’s review, the USTR recognised progress but urged that more needs to be done on worker safety and rights.
President Obama suspended Bangladesh from GSP in June 2013 based on Bangladesh’s failure to meet statutory eligibility requirements related to worker rights.
Meanwhile, an influential US congresswoman feels Bangladesh’s persistent plea to get duty and quota free access to the American market has justification as the country stands firm against extremism.
’Bangladesh is a democracy and is fighting against terrorism and extremism…Why you should not be allowed duty and quota free access in the US market,’ Congresswoman Carolyn B Maloney (D-NY) said this during a meeting with Bangladesh Ambassador Mohammad Ziauddin in New York.
Maloney, also a member of the Bangladesh caucus of the US Congress, assured that she along with other members of the caucus would raise the matter with the US administration so that Bangladesh can get the trade preferences in the US market, according to a message received yesterday.
During the meeting that lasted more than half an hour at the Congresswoman’s Manhattan office, the Ambassador briefed Maloney on wide range of issues including current political situation in Bangladesh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s zero tolerance against religious extremism.
He also briefed about women’s empowerment in Bangladesh and on the issues of bilateral trade and investment, and Bangladesh-US multifaceted cooperation. Minister (Press) of the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington Shamim Ahmad and Counsellor (Political) Nayem Ahmed of the embassy were present in the meeting.
Bangladesh has long been demanding duty free access in the US market.  Instead of providing the facilities, the US kept Bangladesh out of the GSP programme despite having significant improvement in safety and working environment in RMG sector.
The Ambassador said peace and stability prevails in Bangladesh and flow of overseas investment in the country is on the rise. He said Bangladesh is on the threshold of attaining a mid-income economy. He argued that Dhaka deserves the US trade preferences to its export products, particularly readymade garments which would ultimately contribute immensely to the empowerment of women.
Ziauddin said bilateral relations between Dhaka and Washington is broadening and deepening and the two countries have expanded effective cooperation in various fields under Bangladesh-US partnership and security dialogues and TICFA. The Ambassador said Bangladesh held general elections legally and constitutionally ensuring continuation of democratic rule. He said the government is also pursuing a policy of zero tolerance against all forms of extremism by Jamaat and other religious radical groups – many of which got armed training during the Afghan war. He said many friendly countries including the USA are extending cooperation to the government in countering extremism in Bangladesh. Maloney also appreciated the Prime Minister’s all out efforts for empowering women economically and politically as a ‘great’ initiative.