Gulf News | May 19, 2010
Bangladesh rejects US trade pact
Fears that Washington’s draft agreement could adversely affect its own business interests
By Anisur Rahman, Correspondent
Dhaka: Bangladesh has decided against signing a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States after six years of negotiations, fearing the draft pact suggested by Washington might affect its business interests, reports and officials said here yesterday.
The Financial Express newspaper, quoting sources in the Prime Minister’s office, said the government recently conveyed its decision after six years of negotiations since the United States proposed the agreement in 2003.
"We will not sign [the] Tifa agreement with the United States as the draft agreement has given rise to controversies... We need a broad-based agreement with the United States to cover trade, investment and other bilateral issues," the newspaper quoted a source in the premier’s office as saying.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office could not be reached immediately for comments but Commerce Ministry officials said the United States recently sent another draft agreement titled the ‘Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum’ for negotiation, thus replacing the TIFA treaty though "no major change was found" in the new draft.
The United States was insisting that the TIFA treaty was a non-binding agreement that "only commits parties to hold regular annual meetings" while US Ambassador James F. Moriarty recently said Bangladesh should ink the deal for greater access to markets in the United States.
Earlier, Commerce Minister Faruk Khan repeatedly asked the US government to exclude issues such as labour and intellectual property rights from the Tifa draft as officials said Bangladesh needed a platform with the United States in its own interest.
The United States is Bangladesh’s single largest export destination with annual export earnings of more than $4 billion (Dh14.6 billion) or about 40 per cent of Bangladesh’s annual exports.
The United States has already signed Tifa treaties with more than 30 trading partners.