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US-Bangladesh to resume TIFA talks soon

NewAge, Dhaka, Bangladesh

US-Bangladesh to resume TIFA talks soon


7 February 2005

The stalled talks for signing a trade and investment framework agreement between Dhaka and Washington will resume soon since the new Bush administration has already set its agenda for coming days, said sources in the government.

Accordingly, the sources added, a top-ranking official of the United States trade representatives office is likely to visit Bangladesh in the second week of March to give the final touch to the draft of the agreement.

If signed, the framework agreement will provide for a US-Bangladesh joint council to take up a wide range of issues relating to trade and investment that benefit the two countries, said officials of the commerce ministry.

The ministry is scheduled to sit for a meeting, to be chaired by the newly posted acting secretary, today to discuss in detail the draft of the agreement.

A major point of departure in the agreement is the wording of the intellectual property rights draft after resolution of a number of issues. This will be the third version of the TIFA draft that we will be dealing with, said a source in the commerce ministry.

Washington is yet to properly address Dhakas demand that the US should accept trade-related intellectual property rights in conformity with the World Trade Organisation norms, not its own.

Dhaka had earlier written its reaction to the draft of the agreement and sent it back to Washington. However, the final round of talks on the agreement remained stalled due to the presidential elections of 2004 and takeover by the new administration.

Washington recently responded to the draft, some amendments to which was proposed by Dhaka, and the US trade representative office informed the Bangladesh government of its interest in finalising the agreement.

US assistant trade representative Ashley Wills visited Bangladesh twice and held talks on the agreement. The two countries still failed to sign the agreement within three months since the middle of March, 2004, in spite of such a consensus.

Against the backdrop of various speculations on the proposed agreement, the US ambassador, Harry K Thomas, earlier made it clear that the framework agreement would not compel Bangladesh to match the labour and environmental standards of the United States, nor would it provide Bangladesh duty-free access to the US market.