Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Thursday said that the Bangladeshi apparel products made of raw materials including cotton imported from the United States should be exempted from duty on import by importers of that country.
At a luncheon meeting organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh, he floated an idea to strike a deal on purchasing cotton from the US in exchange of getting duty-free market access to the country.
The AmCham arranged the programme with a theme ‘strengthening Bangladesh-USA economic relationship’ at the Westin Hotel in Dhaka.
There is on average 15.6 per cent import duty on Bangladeshi products, mainly readymade garment, for the US market, which is unfortunate for a least developed country like Bangladesh as products of France, a developed nation, face only 0.5 per cent duty, he said.
‘My proposal is that we will buy more cotton from the US for producing apparel products which should be exempted from duty,’ he said.
There also must not be any requirement for further testing of the products at Bangladesh port, he added.
‘Lets’ start and see how things happen,’ he said.
The foreign minister said that the US had already similar facilities for Sub-Saharan African countries and Caribbean countries under African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Caribbean Initiative.
He said that the US was the biggest export destination of Bangladeshi products, mainly RMG, with $6.9 billion export earnings in the last fiscal year 2018-2019.
It is also one of the largest investors with total stock of foreign direct investment more than $3.6 billion.
But, the relationship could be much better and I hope in future trade relations between the two countries would be much better and stronger, he said.
Momen urged the US companies to make more FDI in Bangladesh to assist the country to achieve its aspiration for becoming a developed country by 2041 and achieving other development goals.
The rate of returns of investment is high in Bangladesh and after Rana Plaza building collapse, the labour standards and safety and security issues have been improved much.
About the US strength, he said that it was not weapon, rather fairness in justice system and human rights values were the strength of the US.
Bangladesh also must diversify export baskets to boost export earnings, he said.
Expressing frustration over the role of foreign nations in the Rohingya issue, he said that global voice about rights of Rohingya was not strong enough due to various influences. Global voices should be stronger for Rohingyas who has been executed for years and kicked out from their country, he said.
AmCham president Syed Ershad Ahmed said that Bangladesh should focus on research and development for product diversification and take steps to attract more FDI, which were the main challenges for the country despite economic growth at higher rate and other economic and social achievements over the last few years.
It is imperative to attract more investments in diversified sectors and in high technology-based industries and services to cope up with global competition and to face with newer challenges such as job creation, he said.
Attention should also be given to knowledge-based high products, he said.
He said that more cooperation between the two countries might attract more investment in infrastructure development including ports, road and transport.
Bangladesh has more potential in improving bilateral economic relationship with the US, he added.
AmCham vice-president Syed Mohammad Kamal, US counsellor for political and economic affairs to Bangladesh Brent T Christensen, businesspeople, current and former diplomats, among others, attended the programme.