Duty free access to US market faces opposition

The government and industry stakeholders have been advised for pursuing effective lobbying and campaigns against the stand of some countries those are opposing a recreantly reintroduced bill in the US Senate offering duty-free accesses to 14 least developed countries including Bangladesh.
   Pakistani authority is reportedly taking preparations for opposing such privileged market access to Bangladesh when some other African countries are planning to take the Pakistan side.
   On May 29, the Federal Textile Adviser of Pakistan, Mirza Ikhtiar Baig, called for ‘making efforts for restricting such benefits [duty-free access to Bangladesh] until a Doha Round agreement was concluded or Pakistan included in the concession.’
   According to Pakistan’s daily the News, Baig, argued that granting of duty-free status to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, which were Pakistan’s strong competitors in the US market, would affect Pakistan.
   Industry sources said some African countries, which now enjoy duty-free access, are preparing to oppose such facility to at least Bangladesh and Cambodia, as these two countries make maximum shipments of textile from LDCs to US markets.
   ‘Governments and stakeholders in Africa are taking preparations for opposing duty-free access of Bangladesh,’ one leading sweater exporter told New Age.
   The exporter, a former vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer and Exporters Association, claimed that representatives of some top American importing houses in Dhaka had informed him such development.
   Another leading exporter said as China, India and Vietnam targeted the vast US apparel market, it was not unlikely that counter diplomacy against the bill would take place.
   ‘Many counter diplomacy had taken place behind the scene earlier, and similar practice would take place again. So Bangladesh needs to put best efforts by taking other beneficiaries and supporters of bill beside her,’ he suggested.
   The executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Professor Mustafizur Rahman said such opposition was not unexpected and he advised stakeholders in Bangladesh to overcome these by diplomatic efforts and campaigns.
   The trade analyst suggests immediate diplomatic efforts and campaign by industry stakeholders at home and overseas.
   He said Bangladesh government and exporters would go to Africa to convince the textile industry there that duty-free entry to the US market of Bangladeshi goods would not be harmful for Africa.
   ‘Bangladesh imports huge quantity of cotton from Africa,’ Mustafiz said, making a point that could be effective to manage Africans. ‘Besides, the Bangladeshi textile entrepreneurs can offer joint-venture production facilities in Africa to improve supply capacity to maximize Africa’s benefits from their existing duty-free access.’
   Musrafiz pointed out that Bangladesh government and industry representatives should go to USA to make it clear that the textile manufacturing industry stakeholders and the government officials that Bangladesh definitely deserved such duty-free access
   On May 21, a new bill seeking trade relief for 14 Asian LDCs, including Bangladesh, was introduced in the US Senate, by influential and senior democrat senator Dianne Feinstein and republican Kit Bond.
   While introducing the bill, the senators argued that such privileged market access would help eliminate the roots of extremisms in some Asian countries by creating jobs, reducing poverty and ensuring political stability.
   The bill sought duty-free access for textiles made in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Laos, the Maldives, Nepal, Samoa, Sri Lanka Solomon Islands, East Timor, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Yemen.
   Among the LDCs, listed in the bill, Bangladesh is the largest apparel exporter. The country shipped around $3.4 billion, out of its $11.7 worth of apparel exports in 2008, to the USA.
   The senators argued that the legislation was intended to sustain vital export industries, promote economic growth and political stability in these impoverished nations.
   Earlier in 2007, a similar bill titled ‘New Partnership for Development Act (NPDA)’ was introduced in the US Congress by Representative Jim McDermott. The bill faced oppositions from some African countries and a section of US manufacturers.

Source: The Daily New Age, 07 June 2009

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