Commerce Secretary Feroz Ahmed has urged the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to terminate the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) review proceedings and continue to accord GSP facilities to Bangladesh to help the country develop and fight poverty.
His appeal came during a hearing on GSP Facilities for Bangladesh at the USTR office in Washington DC on Friday, said a statement.
The hearing, held in response to a petition by American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), is part of the US government’s review process to determine the eligibility of GSP facilities to a number of countries including Bangladesh.
Bangladesh remains committed to the full protection of labour rights and has already taken a number of steps in this direction, Ahmed said during the hearing, adding that the government will continue to do everything possible in this regard.
In his presentation, Ahmed informed the hearing panel of the steps taken in the export processing zones (EPZs), garment and shrimp sectors to improve compliance with the labour standards and ensure welfare of the workers in those sectors.
The newly elected government is committed to upholding the rights and privileges of the workers in line with the labour and other relevant laws, he added.
The US side noted the Bangladesh government’s responsiveness to ensure the workers’ rights.
Jeffrey Vogt, global economic specialist at the AFL-CIO, recognised the progress made in recent years in Bangladesh’s EPZs and shrimp sector.
He however said more needed to be done in the garment sector to better ensure workers’ rights. He also suggested aggressive reforms to protect the overall labour rights in Bangladesh.
The hearing panel consisted of Marideth Joy Sandler, executive director of GSP programme and chairman of GSP sub-committee, Anne Zollner, division chief of US Department of Labour, and other US officials. Sandler chaired the hearing.
Bangladesh Ambassador to the US M Humayun Kabir, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority Brig Gen Jamil Ahmed Khan and Chairman of Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation Syed Mahmudul Huq, among others, participated in the hearing from Bangladesh side.
The commerce secretary also met Michael J Delaney, assistant USTR for South and Central Asian Affairs, to discuss bilateral issues, and held a separate meeting with Sandler to clarify various points raised during the hearing.
The Bangladesh envoy was present at these meetings.
Source: The Daily Star, 26 April 2009