Bangladesh kept outside US GSP list

Bangladesh has been kept outside of a GSP renewal move by the US senate to return back the trade privilege for about 125 developing nations by next month, officials in the foreign ministry said.
The move would impact the country’s merchandise exports to its largest export destination badly and hurt the competitive edge of exporters over those in the rival economies, a trade expert in the commerce ministry said.
On April 22 and 23, the Senate finance and House ways and means committees approved legislation to renew the GSP, a trade programme that removes tariffs on nearly 5,000 products from 126 developing countries including Bangladesh, a senior commerce ministry official said, quoting a diplomatic communication.
‘GSP is finally making a move in the Senate. But there is no news for Bangladesh,’ reads the diplomatic communication made from Bangladesh mission in Washington DC to foreign ministry in Dhaka last week.
‘Since suspension of GSP for Bangladesh took place in a different context, the USTR officials always underscore the need for improving workings conditions in RMG, attaining international labour standard and ensuring labour rights.’
Dhaka has been pursuing the US administration relentlessly to include Bangladesh in the GSP renewal legislation, which is expected to be approved in the Senate soon, a senior trade official said.
‘We have been making our efforts through diplomatic channels to get back the lost GSP benefits, as the country has improved its labour and factory standards based on a US action plan,’ Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, secretary, ministry of commerce, told New Age on Tuesday.
‘We want equal treatment from the US like other 125 countries.’
GSP eligible countries to get back the benefit include India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand along with almost all African nations.
Since July 2013, duty-free facility under the US GSP scheme for above 125 eligible countries remained suspended with the expiry of its tenure. After the legislation, duties collected so far under the GSP covered products will be returned back to the US importers.
‘A bigger programme that provides duty-free treatment for over 125 developing countries would only be reauthorised through December 2017 under the bill. However, the legislation would retroactively waive duties that have been collected on imports from the countries since the programme expired in July, 2013,’ said the communication.
‘All these recent initiatives, persuasion by US importers and GSP alliance countries for renewal of GSP, made Bangladesh exports to US market further difficult as Bangladesh is not a part of the package for this time,’ warned the official communication from Bangladesh mission.
In 2012, the total value of US imports from Bangladesh under GSP was US$ 34.7 million. The imports under the GSP scheme guarantee duty-free entry of goods. The top GSP imports from Bangladesh included tobacco, sports equipment, porcelain china, and plastic products.
After revoking the GSP, the USTR sent an action plan for Bangladesh to implement the conditions included in the plan to become eligible to get back the lost trade benefit. Since then, at least four reviews were held with the latest being in April by the USTR to assess the implementation of the US action plan, sources at the commerce ministry said.
Officials concerned in the ministries of labour and foreign affairs said the USTR was now pressing the government to introduce labour rights and trade union facilities inside the export processing zones similar to those currently in force in factories outside the EPZ.
Besides, the US also wants rules to make the labour act 2013 effective and early enactment of EPZ act 2015, which was approved in the cabinet meeting last year.

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