TICFA with US in final stage, says MuhithStaff Correspondent
The finance minister, AMA Muhith, on Saturday said a deal between Bangladesh and the United States on trade and economic cooperation is in the final stage.
He said the deal was expected to be sent the cabinet committee soon for its approval.
The finance minister was talking to newsmen after a meeting with the US ambassador in Dhaka, Dan Mozena, at his secretariat office in the morning.
A high-powered committee has been working on the deal, said Muhith.
Washington has long been pressuring Dhaka to sign the deal titled the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement.
But Dhaka wanted that the ‘child labour’ issue in the draft should be relaxed before finalisation of the deal.
The US trade experts, insisting on elimination of child labour, had showed rigidity over the issue in the past.
The finance minister had an extensive discussion with senior policymakers,
including the foreign minister, former commerce minister and the prime minister’s economic adviser on the proposed deal in August last year.
They had decided that Dhaka would propose to the US to be flexible about the child labour issue to enable the government to sign the proposed deal.
The proposed TICFA was submitted by the US in 2010 after Bangladesh expressed its reservations about the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement proposed earlier.
Dhaka refused to sign TIFA after Washington did not drop or change words like ‘bribe’ and ‘corruption’ from it after both the countries negotiated the proposed deal for about half a decade.
The finance minister admitted that there should be a deal between Bangladesh and the US. The proposed deal would at least pave the way for creation of a forum where the two sides could discuss issues of trade and economic cooperation, he added.
The US ambassador told reporters that he did not see any problem in signing the deal.
He expected that the deal would be signed soon.
Several rounds of talks were held between the trade experts of the two countries on TICFA.
Foreign secretary Mijarul Quayes and Amitabh Chakrabarti, director general of the World Trade Organisation cell at the commerce ministry, had negotiated the proposed deal with US officials in Washington DC in June 29-30, 2010.
A US team visited Dhaka late last year to hold further discussion on the issue.
The US is the single largest export market for Bangladeshi goods.
The annual exports to the US market are more than $4.0 billion, accounting for 40 per cent of the country’s total export receipts.
But exporters have to pay about $500 million in duty due to stringent customs rules in the US.
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