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Negotiations over Dhaka-Washington TECF deal to be concluded soon

Financial Express | 20 July 2011

Negotiations over Dhaka-Washington TECF deal to be concluded soon

Signing of the accord in the offing

Syful Islam

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has asked the ministry of commerce (MoC) to expedite the process of negotiations with the United States to finalise the proposed Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum (TECF) deal immediately, sources said.

It has also advised the MoC to forward a report to Finance Minister AMA Muhith for taking an immediate decision on the issue.

Commerce Secretary M Ghulam Hossain had submitted a report to the PMO after visiting the US in this connection.

Foreign Secretary Mizarul Kayes and Director General of WTO Cell at the MoC Amitabh Chakrabarti also attended the meeting with the US officials in Washington DC on June 29-30 this year.

"Questions do automatically arise if you begin and stop discussions on a bilateral deal repeatedly. It casts doubts over the seriousness of negotiations," Prime Minister’s Economic Adviser Moshiur Rahman wrote in a letter to Commerce Minister Faruk Khan this week.

Mr Moshiur Rahman also wanted to know if the discussions on TECF would remain in an unending stage for an indefinite period.

A team of US officials are expected to come to Dhaka within this month or early next month to discuss further the issues that remained unsettled during the visit of a Bangladeshi delegation to the US last month, Commerce Minister Faruk Khan told the FE Wednesday.

"We are trying our best to conclude the negotiations and sign the deal as early as possible," he said.

"Since we are holding discussions on the issue keeping the interest of the country into utmost consideration, it is taking time," Mr Khan added.

Amitabh Chakrabarti told the FE Wednesday that signing of the deal would take place sooner rather than later, though some differences still existed.

"The unresolved issues can be settled through paper or wire communication or at a meeting in Dhaka. The deal will be signed shortly," he said.

A member of the Bangladesh delegation, after returning from the US, told the FE that the moot issue of difference between the two sides was related to labour standard issue.

"The US insists on mentioning elimination of child labour in the deal while we want it to be mentioned in general terms, instead of citing it specifically. We want to mention that we will follow the ILO convention on child rights," he said.

Earlier, Washington agreed to delete the words, ’corruption and bribery’, from the TECF document, as was preferred by Dhaka.

Instead it agreed to insert the words like ’combating and preventing unlawful activities in international trade and investment’ since both the government and the private sector of Bangladesh consider insertion of words ’corruption and bribery’ as not befitting the dignity and status of the country.

The ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of commerce have jointly been assigned to negotiate the TECF agreement with the US.

Earlier, Dhaka sought exclusion of some controversial words from the draft of TECF during negotiations with the US delegation on April 20.

The US Assistant Trade Representative, Michael Delaney, led the delegation at the talks.

The US submitted the draft agreement on TECF deal early last year after Bangladesh expressed its reservation about signing the earlier proposed Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) because of, what it considered, insertion of some ’controversial’ clauses in its draft.

The US is the single largest export market for Bangladeshi goods. Annual exports of Bangladesh to the US market are more than US$4.0 billion, in value terms, constituting about 40 per cent of the country’s aggregate annual export receipts.

 source: Financial Express