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US presses for TIFA

BD News (Dhaka) | Oct 19th, 2009

US presses for TIFA

Dhaka, Oct 19 (—The visiting US assistant trade representative Michael J Delaney has stressed signing a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with his country to increase bilateral trade.

"I added that I personally think that it is really good idea for us to have TIFA as the US is Bangladesh’s number one trading partner," Delaney told reporters after a meeting with foreign secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes at the ministry.

He said it was up to Bangladesh to decide on signing the TIFA.

Signing a TIFA with US is a controversial issue in Bangladesh; many consider it a framework-agreement of a smaller country with a more powerful one.

Many in Bangladesh are particularly concerned that the country would be in weaker position in the multilateral forums on trade liberalisation like the WTO if it signs a TIFA with the US.

"We think our trade and investment is reasonably good, several billion dollars a year," said Delaney.

"It can be a lot better and TIFA could be one way of doing that," said Delaney, who arrived in Dhaka Sunday night on a five-day visit.

Last year Bangladesh exported products, mainly ready-made garments and shrimp, worth over $3 billon to the US, while the latter imported products worth about $500 million.

Delaney said though the US was the number one trading partner with Bangladesh, there lacked a "formal dialogue mechanism" to discuss issues related with expansion of trade and investment.

"The secretary has said the TIFA is under government’s consideration," said Delaney.

Foreign secretary Mijarul Quayes, after his meeting, told, "We are examining the TIFA".

Delaney said, "It is up to the people and the Bangladesh government’s willingness to proceed with it."

"Then the US government will have to consider that and we would try to get back to the government of Bangladesh with an answer as quickly as possible."

Regarding working conditions in Bangladesh’s ready-made garments industry, Delaney said Bangladesh had improved its standards.

The office of the USTR is very important for Bangladesh’s market access to the US as it holds hearings on labour standards in the exporting countries.

The TIFA would be under the aegis of the office of the USTR.

The US government during the tenure of the past caretaker government in Bangladesh sent a draft TIFA. But the interim administration finally refrained from signing the controversial deal amid criticisms.

For instance, Bangladesh has been demanding waiver of intellectual property rights at WTO talks for business interests.

But if it signs a TIFA with the US, Bangladesh will in principle be agreeing to recognise all intellectual property rights as TIFA’s preamble includes recognition of the same.

The US has already signed TIFAs with 56 countries in the world. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the two other South Asian countries to sign such agreements with the US.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has appointed lobbyists in the US Congress for the passage of a bill which would give her duty-free and quota-free market access to the US.

 source: BD News