BD News 24 | Sun, Jul 10th, 2011
Labour issue blocking TICFA deal: Faruk
Sheikh Shahariar Zaman
Dhaka, July 10 (bdnews24.com)—Disagreement on the issue of workers’ union in EPZs is standing in the way of Bangladesh signing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA) with the US, according to the commerce minister.
"We want to sign the agreement to have a platform where both the countries can discuss and expand their trade but labour issue is yet to be resolved," M Faruk Khan told bdnews24.com on Sunday.
There were some thorny issues including environment, corruption and intellectual property rights but those have been resolved, he said.
"We have to keep this in mind that we cannot allow trade union in the export processing zones and I hope the US understand the ground reality," he added.
The US wants to mention labour union rights clause in all areas in the agreement.
The commerce and foreign secretaries went to the US to negotiate on TICFA in the last week of June and it can be said 95 percent of the agreement has been agreed upon by the parties, Faruk said.
The negotiation is likely to conclude after the visit of assistant US trade representative for South Asia Michael J Delaney in Dhaka ’soon’, the minister said.
Delaney had come to Dhaka in April and discussed the TICFA issue with the commerce minister. "Bangladesh has submitted an outline and we are considering it," Delaney said.
The idea of the forum was floated after the government declined to sign Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) amid controversies in 2009.
DUTY-FREE MARKET ACCESS
Bangladesh is pursuing to enter the US market with duty-free facility, Faruk said
"Economic diplomacy is going on and our embassy in Washington is working hard to get the facility."
"Average tariff rate on readymade garment products is 16 percent and US importers have to pay $500 million for their imports from Bangladesh."
Exports from Bangladesh will increase if the country receives duty-free access to the US market, he added.
Being a least developed country, Bangladesh should get the facility from the rich countries including the US, Faruk observed.
Bangladesh exported goods worth about $5 billion to the US in the last fiscal year and overall export to other countries including US hit a record $22.9 billion, according to the minister.