New Age, Dhaka
TIFA talks start today
14 February 2005
Dhaka is likely to soften its position on inclusion of a clause related to bribery and corruption as it enters into the third round of talks with Washington today on a trade and investment framework agreement, sources in the commerce ministry have told New Age.
A senior US trade policy advisor for Asia and Pacific, Betsee E Steelman, arrived Sunday evening for the two-day talks, to be chaired by the joint commerce secretary, Elias Ahmad, the sources said.
An inter-ministerial meeting on Thursday decided to oppose inclusion of bribery and corruption issues in the TIFA draft after commerce ministry officials and private-sector representatives had observed that the clause in the preamble would undermine Bangladesh’s image abroad.
The clause incorporated in the draft is meant for elimination of bribery and corruption in international trade and investment, and is not specific to Bangladesh, the commerce secretary, Siddiqur Rahman, told New Age on Sunday.
Besides, he said, Dhaka and Washington are yet to reach a consensus on a number of issues included in the draft.
However, the ministry sources said Dhaka would press Washington to replace elimination of bribery and corruption with prevention of malpractice in the TIFA draft.
A chamber representative said inclusion of corruption and bribery indicates that the agreement would be bilateral, not multilateral. He, however, opposed inclusion of the new clause as it might undermine Bangladeshs image.
On the issue of forging a free trade agreement between Dhaka and Washington, the commerce secretary said steps would be undertaken towards an FTA once the agreement was signed.