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Sixth TICFA meet likely in early December

Bangladesh to ask for restoring GSP

Sixth TICFA meet likely in early December

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Bangladesh would request the USA to restore the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for widening the market access of its products to the single largest export destination, official sources said.

They said the country would call for the trade facilities at the upcoming meeting of the Bangladesh-US Trade & Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA) that is expected to be held on December 06 or 07 next in Washington.

It will also urge the USA to extend the existing trade benefits, Bangladesh now enjoys as the LDC, even after the country's graduation to a developing country.

Deputy Assistant US Trade Representative South and Central Asia Brendan Lynch recently proposed the tentative schedule of the sixth TICFA meeting as well as a raft of draft agenda to the commerce ministry for its views and comments.

The proposed agenda included digital trade, labour issues, technical assistance, agriculture, investment and ease of doing business, according to a senior official.

The meeting aims to expand trade, commerce and investment between the two countries, he added.

The commerce ministry was now taking preparations to convince its US counterparts to provide again the GSP benefit and allow Bangladesh along with other graduating LDCs to enjoy the trade facilities after their graduation, said the official.

Dhaka will present the progress made over the labour rights issues and workplace safety in the meeting, he added.

Bangladesh has already made significant improvements in labour rights, workplace safety etc. through the implementation of the 16-point plan of actions prescribed by the US Trade Representative (USTR).

In June 2013, the US suspended the GSP for Bangladesh after the Rana Plaza building collapse.

The TICFA was signed between the two countries on November 25, 2013. Since then, five meetings have so far been held. Of them, three were held in Dhaka and two in Washington.

When contacted, Director General of the WTO Cell Md Hafizur Rahman said the next TICFA meeting is likely to be held on December 06 or 07 in Washington, USA where Dhaka would place some proposals, including restoring the GSP facility in the US market for Bangladeshi products, technical assistance and investment issue.

In different bilateral talks, meetings and partnership dialogues since 2015, Bangladesh has been urging the US to reinstate the GSP. In 2018, Dhaka formally requested Washington to restore the trade benefit.

"We've also been exploring potential dates for the TICFA and would like to propose that we hold the TICFA here in Washington on either December 6th or 7th," Mr Brendan said recently in a letter to the commerce ministry of Bangladesh.

"It would be much appreciated if you could confirm if either of those dates will work for Bangladesh. If for some reason they do not, we could likely explore a date during the prior week as an alternative."

The Deputy Assistant USTR said: "We see the four primary categories of issues as digital trade, labor, agriculture and ease of doing business."

He also suggested holding virtual meetings in October and November to discuss the proposed issues further. And that will also help inform efforts to develop both an agenda and a joint statement for the TICFA Council meeting.

"It would be helpful to schedule a dedicated virtual meeting in advance of the TICFA so that our technical experts can discuss policies impacting the digital economy, in particular the ongoing work to develop a Data Protection Act," he added.

"Separately, we'd also be interested in discussing additional ways to enhance bilateral trade in agricultural products as well as improve the ease of doing business, in part by enhancing Bangladesh's good regulatory practices and intellectual property regime."

Currently, the US is the single largest export destination for Bangladeshi products with earnings worth over US$10 billion only from apparel items.

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