High level visits from US, Japan, India between May 3 and 6Diplomatic Correspondent
Three foreign dignitaries—Japanese deputy prime minister Katsuya Okada, US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and Indian finance minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee—would pay official visits to Dhaka in four days starting from Thursday.
The government is working on the possibility of signing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement during the two-day visit of Hillary Clinton as the US tagged full duty-free
access of Bangladesh garment products with the signing of TICFA.
In her talks with Bangladesh leadership, Clinton may request to import military equipment from United States, a government official said, giving reference to a recent statement of a senior official of US administration.
Japanese DPM Katsuya Okada is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka by a Thai Airways flight on Thursday. He would call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
The government would request the Japanese DPM to provide funds for several projects including Padma Multipurpose Bridge and metro-rail project etc.
Dhaka would also request the Japanese government to facilitate more imports from and investment to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh exports to Japan were worth about $500 million while imports from that country stood at $1.3 billion in 2010-11 fiscal year.
Leader of the opposition and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and foreign minister Dipu Moni would call on the Japanese DPM.
Okada is set to leave Dhaka on Friday.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, who would be in Asia for a tri-nation tour, is set to arrive Dhaka on Saturday by a special aircraft from China.
She would separately call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina and leader of the opposition and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia.
Mrs. Clinton would hold official talks with her counterpart Dipu Moni on Saturday afternoon.
Clinton would also hold a meeting with select members of the civil society before her departure for Kolkata in India on Sunday.
There is a possibility of signing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement during Clinton’s visit after the official talks on Saturday, commerce ministry officials say.
The commerce ministry has sent a draft of TICFA to the Prime Minister’s Office, commerce minister Ghulam Muhammed Quader said.
‘If the government decides to sign TICFA during Mrs. Clinton’s visit, the cabinet would require to approve it this week,’ an official said.
Bangladesh has been demanding a duty-free access for garment products to the US market for long, as the country pays more than 15 percent tariff to get in.
The US government redesigned the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement as TICFA that promises to protect investment and form a platform to hold dialogues to remove obstacles in bilateral trade. Dhaka was unwilling to signing TIFA for long.
‘The demand for duty-free access of Bangladeshi products to the US market is a very valid one, but if we can form the forum we will be able to identify the problems and opportunities for accelerating the bilateral trade,’ US ambassador Dan Mozena said at a discussion on US-Bangladesh Trade Relations at the FBCCI office in Dhaka on April 17.
In fiscal 2010-11, Bangladesh exported goods worth $5.10 billion to the US, of which 90 per cent were garment items. In the same period, Bangladesh imported goods worth $676 million from the US.
A total of 97 per cent Bangladeshi goods enter the US market without any duty, but the garments, the country’s main export items, have been left out.
As a result, Bangladesh’s RMG products have to enter the US market paying a 15.3 percent duty and facing a stiff competition from China, India and Pakistan.
Bangladesh is the second largest ready-made garment (RMG) exporter to the US after China.
The US assistant secretary for Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Andrew J. Shapiro, said on April 24 in Washington that Bangladesh is ‘working through a military modernisation plan, which includes looking to partners for affordable defense systems, especially to supply its Special Operations Forces and disaster relief equipment. This modernisation effort provides an opportunity for us to expand our security cooperation, especially through our Excess Defense Articles program, which makes U.S. equipment that is surplus to our requirements available to our partners,’ according to a US news release.
Indian finance minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee will pay a two-day official visit starting from Saturday to attend the closing ceremony of the joint celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.
Mukherjee will call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina and finance minister AMA Muhith to discuss issues of mutual interest. Foreign minister Dipu Moni would call on Mukherjee.
The Bangladesh leaders are expected to give emphasis on the signing of an interim agreement on sharing of water of the Teesta river, a foreign ministry official said.
They are also expected to give emphasis on holding a joint study on India’s controversial plan to construct a multipurpose dam at Tipaimukh on the Barak river that provides water to the Meghna, a major river system in Bangaldesh.
India failed to sign an agreement on Teesta during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September 2011 despite completion of almost all formalities.
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