Friday 3, February 2023

Bangladesh demands restoration of US GSP

Time Business Report: Bangladesh has demanded the United States restore the generalised system of preferences (GSP) status during the 6th round meeting of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) in Washington on Tuesday.

Both Dhaka and Washington affirmed the importance of Bangladesh's efforts aimed at reforming its labour laws and discussed Bangladesh's interest in the restoration of its beneficiary status under the US GSP programme, according to a statement from the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the chief trade negotiation body of the North American country.

Consistent with the Biden administration's focus on worker-centred trade policy, the US highlighted its priorities in implementing and enforcing labour laws to protect workers' rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and to a safe and healthy workplace.

The US emphasised greater alignment between Bangladesh's domestic labour laws and international labour standards, in particular by extending fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining to the export processing zones and special economic zones.

The US also expressed interest in collaborating with Bangladesh on new opportunities to promote labour rights, including forced labour in global supply chains.

The meeting was co-chaired by Christopher Wilson, assistant USTR for South and Central Asia, and Tapan Kanti Ghosh, secretary of the commerce ministry of Bangladesh.

Currently, the US does not provide the GSP to any country. The tenure of the latest GSP programme came to an end in 2020 and the US Congress has not revived it since.

The USTR suspended the GSP facility for Bangladesh on June 27, 2013, citing poor labour rights and poor workplace safety following two industrial disasters.

One was the Tazreen Fashions fire that killed more than 110 workers in November 2012 and the other was the Rana Plaza building collapse in April 2013 which killed 1,138 workers.

The then Obama administration also came up with a 16-point precondition necessitating improvements from the government and the private sector for the reinstatement of the GSP.

Bangladesh has amended the labour law and made improvements in workplace safety following guidelines of two international platforms, Accord and Alliance, and submitted the progress reports to the USTR twice for the revival of the GSP.

However, the US government did not revive the GSP for Bangladesh, mentioning that further improvements were needed in labour rights.

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