TICFA meet postponed as US awaits new admin

Staff Correspondent | Published: 23:42, Nov 27,2016


Tofail, Bernicat differ on GSP suspension cause

US authorities have postponed the 3rd round of TICFA meeting scheduled for December 13 in Dhaka as the United States awaits Donald Trump’s succession to the country’s presidency in January next year.
‘The meeting of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement is likely to be held in March or April after the US’s new administration led by Trump takes office,’ commerce minister Tofail Ahmed said at a briefing after a meeting with US ambassador Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat at the secretariat in Dhaka on Sunday.
In 2013, the US and Bangladesh signed the TICFA to establish an annual forum for increasing bilateral trade and investment, the commerce minister said.
Tofail hoped that the trade and investment between the two countries would increase under the new administration in the US, Tofail said.
‘The US administration in 2013 suspended generalised system of preferences for Bangladesh on political ground but I think the administration under the new president would not see the issue politically and the benefit would be restored,’ the commerce minister said.
Disagreeing with Tofail’s notion of the cause of the GSP suspension, Bernicat said that there was no political consideration; rather the trade facility was suspended considering workplace safety and worker rights situation in Bangladesh.
‘We absolutely disagree that there was a political basis for the GSP suspension. We are working on helping fulfil 16 items on Action Plan that is the sole basis for restoration of GSP,’ she said.
‘Our commitments remain and continue to expand trade and commercial operation with Bangladesh as the TICFA talks always provide a good opportunity to look forward to expand economic activities between our two countries,’ the envoy said.
By postponing the talks until early next year, there will be an opportunity for the new administration to engage Bangladesh fully in these issues, Bernicat said.
Bangladesh’s progress on safety and security in line with the 16-point Action Plan provided by the US for the restoration of GSP is remarkable and continues but there has been not same level of progress in the labour rights area, she said.
If a worker wants to organise a union, he/she should be allowed to do so and his/her boss does not have the right to discriminate against the worker — to fire and not to pay him/her compensation, said Bernicat.
Tofail said, ‘Worker rights are a vague term and these are never-ending issues. I think the rights of workers in Bangladesh are protected.’ 

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