FBCCI urges USA to sign free trade dealStaff Correspondent
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Monday called upon the United States to sign a free trade agreement with Bangladesh for the country’s economic growth.
Bangladesh needs business facilities from the US government rather than financial aid to achieve
sustainable economic growth, FBCCI president AK Azad said at a discussion meeting on ‘Bangladesh-USA Trade Relations’ at the federation conference room.
US ambassador to Bangladesh Dan W Mozena was present at the meeting.
At the meeting, FBCCI placed some specific demands including duty free access under US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) that provides preferential duty-free entry or at least 50 per cent preference under Most Favored Nation tariffs on products outside GSP coverage.
The country’s apex business body demanded for expediting real terms
transfer of specific US registered technology, including green technology, to Bangladesh as an obligation under WTO of the Doha Ministerial Conference declaration.
It also demanded providing services sector access and public procurements access on flexible terms.
AK Azad said that Bangladesh has huge potential and some business facilities from the US government would allow the country to perform according to its potentials.
‘Our exports to US suffer from both product concentration and high import tariffs which averaged 15.8 per cent whereas the rates ranged between less than one per cent and 2.5 per cent for counties like Norway, Canada, Sweden, Netherlands and UK,’ he said.
Citing some recent competitive data of neighbouring countries particularly relating to apparel export, he said Bangladesh has been facing stiff competition from duty-free suppliers and exporters from China, India and Pakistan as 90 per cent export from Bangladesh to US is subject to 15.3 percent MFN (most favoured nation) tariff.
He said the business leaders would shortly have another meeting with the US ambassador to
discuss more on the FTA issue.
Speaking on the occasion, US ambassador Dan W Mozena said that duty free access of Bangladeshi products to the US is an issue handled by the US congress, ‘The US embassy or the president doesn’t deal such matters. So, Bangladesh needs to place the issue to the concerned table,’ he said.
He said America will invest $ 1 billion over five years as Bangladesh got attention under the US presidential development initiatives to promote food security, improved health, and address climate change.
‘Soon, we hope, to conclude a bilateral Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (Ticfa) which will establish a forum that will identify and address obstacles to increased trade and investment between the two countries,’ the US envoy said.
He said that the first attempt to the TIFA agreement has failed and the second one is hung up.
‘The US has a fine model of the agreement but if Bangladesh feels that it will not serve its interest then don’t sign the agreement,’ Mozena replied when asked why the agreement is hung up.
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 when 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.
In TIFCA, the Bangladesh government wanted the US to relax the ‘child labour’ issue in the draft which should be relaxed before finalisation of the deal.
The finance minister, AMA Muhith, recently said that the TIFCA deal between US and Bangladesh is in the final stage.
US ambassador also said that the government of Bangladesh has made some difficult decisions like increasing energy price to reduce market-distorting subsidies which will bring fundamental
economic growth in the long run.
Mozena said sustained six per cent annual growth is a remarkable achievement, but it is not enough. ‘Bangladesh must create an environment conducive to attracting massive inflows of investment and greatly expanding trade to reach the next gear in the economy.’
FBCCI first vice president M Jashim Uddin, vice president Mostafa Azad Chowdhury Babu, former FBCCI president Abdul Awal Mintoo, head of the economic and political wing of the US embassy in Dhaka Tobias Glucksman and business leaders, among others, spoke on the occasion.
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