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Experts unaware of Tifa details

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Assistant US Trade Representative for Central and South Asia Michael J Delaney, middle, speaks at a discussion on US-Bangladesh trade and investment relations in Dhaka yesterday. (Photo: STARStar Business Report)

Daily Star | Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Experts unaware of Tifa details

Businesspeople, economists and trade experts are unaware of what are in the draft of the proposed Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (Tifa) between Bangladesh and the US.

They expressed their unawareness at a discussion in presence of the visiting Assistant US Trade Representative for Central and South Asia, Michael J Delaney, who came to Bangladesh to discuss the Tifa with the government.

Policy Research Institute (PRI), a private research organisation, and The Financial Express, an English daily, jointly organised the discussion on US-Bangladesh trade and investment relations at the office of PRI with its adviser Yussuf Abdullah Haroon in the chair.

Annisul Huq, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said he is completely unaware of the contents of the draft Tifa.

“We don’t know what are in the draft Tifa proposal. The issue should be discussed thoroughly involving stakeholders,” Huq said.

Prof MA Taslim, chief executive officer of Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute, and Prof Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of Centre for Policy Dialogue, also echoed the views of the FBCCI president on the draft Tifa proposal.

Taslim said: “We haven’t seen the document yet although the discussion between the two countries started in 2003.”

But he said there must be something bothering both the sides as no progress has been made in the last six years.

Mustafizur Rahman said he is also completely unaware of the contents of the draft Tifa proposal.

“It should be made public and discussed in parliament also,” he said.

Mahbubur Rahman, president of International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh, raised question about transparency of the proposed Tifa. He also criticised the government for not involving the stakeholders in the process.

Delaney said: “Under the Tifa, we will create a trade and investment council where representatives of our two governments will meet at regular intervals, typically once a year, to discuss issues of mutual interests.”

He said the Tifa would further enhance annual two-way trade between Bangladesh and the US. The two-way trade between the nations amounted to $4.2 billion last year, of which Bangladesh exported goods worth nearly $3.7 billion.

The speakers however said any disturbance in relationship with the US would affect Bangladesh as it relies heavily on the world’s economic powerhouse for exports.

The US is the single largest export destination of Bangladeshi products.

Former finance adviser AB Mirza Azizul Islam and Executive Director of PRI Ahsan H Mansur said there should not be anything in the Tifa that may cut Bangladesh’s edge in intellectual property rights given by the World Trade Organisation for a period until 2016.

Zaidi Sattar, chairman of PRI, and Moazzem Hossain, editor of The Financial Express, also spoke.


 source: Daily Star