Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed on Thursday requested the visiting European Parliament delegation to allow GSP Plus benefit to Bangladesh once it graduates to developing country from least developed one.
As an LDC, Bangladesh is now enjoying duty- and quota-free export facility for all products except arms and ammunitions in the EU market under the generalised scheme of preferences (GSP).
‘We have sought GSP Plus benefit in the European market once Bangladesh will graduate to developing country, which is expected by 2021, as there will be no longer GSP facility for the country [after the graduation],’ Tofail told reporters at a joint press briefing after a meeting with the 15-member European Parliament delegation at the State Guest House Meghna in Dhaka.
Bangladesh will meet all the requirements in line with the European Union for getting GSP Plus benefit by this time, he said.
He said that Bangladesh had made progress in improving worker rights and workplace safety in line with the Sustainability Compact which was adopted by EU, the United States and Bangladesh government after the deadly Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 in which more than 1,100 workers, mostly garment workers, were killed.
Tofail at the meeting also informed the European Parliament delegation that Bangladesh’s Election Commission would be reconstituted by the country’s president following the Constitution.
He made the comment, responding to a query about the issue from the delegation.
Bernd Lange, head of the delegation of the trade committee of the European Parliament, at the briefing said that Bangladesh would have to comply with 27 core international conventions which are related to democratic development, freedom of expression, environmental and labour standards and security issues.
‘Bangladesh will have to be prepared for that and should focus on completing requirements for GSP Plus facility,’ he said.
Though progress is being made, time is limited, he said adding that the country should try to improve the conditions through dialogues with the EU, which is the best way to go forward.
‘I am optimistic to work together for the facility [GSP Plus] for Bangladesh,’ he said.
Under the GSP Plus scheme, the EU offers complete duty suspension on about 66 per cent of EU tariff lines to developing countries and, in return, the countries must commit to ratifying and effectively implementing core international conventions on above mentioned issues.
Regarding Bangladesh’s improvement in safety and labour standard issues, Bernd said that there was really big improvement in results.
‘Though glass is not full, it is half full and we are working on the rest issues so that by the end of the day we can say that factories are safe and labour rights are respected across the country,’ he said.
Bangladesh has done best in terms of development among the all 48 LDCs enjoying GSP in the EU market, he added.
Replying to a question what was the role of the delegation in ensuring fair prices of Bangladeshi products in the EU market, Bernd said though the prices are set not politically but through trade negotiations, EU brands and buyers have responsibility for offering fair prices.
Commerce ministry acting secretary Zahir Uddin Ahmed and EU ambassador to Dhaka Pierre Mayaudon attended the meeting, among others.
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