Attend hearing in Washington to retain
Bangladesh will attend a hearing in the United
States in January, 2012 to retain preferential market access and
fight allegations over labour standards and use of child
workers. At the hearing at the United States Trade
Representatives (USTR) in Washington on January 24, government
officials will demand the continuation of the generalised system
of preferences (GSP).
The move came after a rights group appealed to the US body
for cancellation of the facility on the ground of labour
standards and child labour. Officials from Commerce, Labour and
Employment and Foreign Ministries and Garment exporters' bodies
will attend the hearing to fight complaints lodged by the
American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial
Organisations (AFL-CIO). Bangladesh attended the USTR hearing in
2007 and 2009 for retaining the GSP facility. This will be the
third hearing of Bangladesh at the USTR. The GSP provides
preferential duty-free entry for about 4,800 products from 129
designated beneficiary countries and territories, including
Bangladesh. But Bangladesh does not benefit much from the GSP as
there are no apparel products on the products' list.
The US government agreed to grant a 97% duty-free facility to
the least developed countries at the Hong Kong ministerial
meeting of the World Trade Organisation in 2005. But major
export items, such as garments, leather goods and footwear, were
not included in the list. As a result, Bangladesh is doing
business with the US by paying a 17% duty on an average and the
highest duty of 32% on man-made fibre clothes.
On September 27, the US renewed the GSP facility for
Bangladesh, allowing duty-free entry to some of its goods. But,
the right group in the US appealed to the government for
withdrawing such facility on the grounds of standards of labour
in the garment factories and child labour in the shrimp sector.
The country's main export item ready-made garment products
have been left out of the list of products enjoying the 97%
duty-free facility. However, some items are allowed duty-free
access under special arrangements like GSP. The tenure of the
old GSP scheme expired on December 31, 2011.