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Bangladesh TIFA with US in three months

From New Nation Online Edition, Dhaka


TIFA with US in three months

By Staff Reporter

17 March 2004

Bangladesh has agreed to sign the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States within the next two to three months.

"We’re quite close to being able to sign the TIFA with Bangladesh within the next two to three months," said Ambassador Ashley Wills, the visiting Assistant US Trade Representative (USTR) for South Asia, while addressing a press conference at the American Centre in Dhaka yesterday.

"We’ve essentially reached in a position to sign the TIFA, which will be a good thing for both the countries."

Karl Fritz, Director of the American Centre in Dhaka, introduced the Assistant US Trade Representative to the newsmen. A.A. Ahmed Ali, Information Chief of the American Centre was present.

Ambassador Wills, who came to Dhaka from Islamabad yesterday morning, said the US signs the TIFA with those countries only with which it has good relations. "We don’t sign the TIFA with countries that don’t share our values."

In this regard, he said the TIFA is a very reciprocal thing. "There is no possibility that one country will dominate the other, and there is no secret agenda at all."

Ambassador Wills said the US regarded Bangladesh as a very close and long-standing friend. "We want to see your prosperity."

The Assistant US Trade Representative said the US wanted to focus more on the South Asian region than it did in the past. "Bangladesh is an important market for the US and the US is also an important market for Bangladesh," he said.

Referring to the phasing out of multi-fibre agreement (MFA) after 2004, Ambassador Wills said there were going to be fluctuations as the Bangladesh’s market was going be free and competitive after the MFA phase-out. "We don’t know what will happen, but our assessment reveals that Bangladesh is in a good position to export textiles after the MFA phasing out."

Since Bangladesh is one of the top 15 nations exporting ready-made garments to the US, Ambassador Wills said he did not think Bangladesh’s textile exports to the American market would be affected after 2004. "I don’t think that Bangladesh’s ready-made garment exports to the US will be affected because Bangladesh has a very well developed and long established trade relations with the US companies," he said.

He, however, admitted that the Bangladesh’s demand of duty-free access to the US market was a "legitimate issue."

In this regard, Ashley Wills pointed out that textile is an enormously important issue for the US. "We have been losing hundreds of thousands of jobs in textile sector," he said.

He said more favourable access not just to Bangladesh, but to any country of the world is extremely difficult for the US.

Earlier in the morning, Ambassador Wills met with Commerce Secretary Suhel Ahmed at the latter’s secretariat office.

“We made a useful discussion and I’m hopeful to sign the agreement by the next two to three months” Ambassador Wills said after emerging from the meeting.

He said that there were some proposals from the Bangladesh side and he would talk with his colleagues after going back to Washington. "We listened to the proposals of the Bangladesh side and we intend to respond positively to those proposals."

Ashley also said that there were some problems with the wording and phrasing of the agreement, and the problems could be solved amicably.

He said that he had also discussed about the trade union rights at the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) with the Bangladesh government officials.

Suhel Ahmed said that there hardly arose any issue that was not agreeable by the US side.

“We asked for duty-free access to our ready-made garments to the US market and also to increase the number of items eligible for GSP facilities," he also said.

It may be mentioned here that Bangladesh and the US agreed to sign the TIFA to promote trade liberalization and investment between the two countries.

The US had offered Bangladesh to sign the TIFA in February last year, but lack of actions on both sides stalled the process of agreement signing. Dhaka and Washington exchanged drafts of the agreement several times in last one year on a bid to reach a consensus.

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