The United States has assured continued support for further development of Bangladesh’s RMG sector and acknowledged the progress already made in the areas of labour rights and factory safety.
The assurance came during Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed’s meetings with the US officials in Washington on Wednesday, according to Bangladesh Embassy in Washington.
Tofail Ahmed held separate meetings with US Trade Representative Michael Froman, Congressman Sandy Levin, high officials from the Department of State as well as Department of Labor which included Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine A Novelli, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal, and various retailers’ associations.
During his discussions with the USTR, Congressman Levin and other officials of the US government, the Commerce Minister briefed them of the progress made in accordance with the US ‘Action Plan for GSP’.
He also urged them to consider duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) market access of Bangladesh apparels into the US market which can further boost the ongoing progress of the RMG industry that has employed more than three million women in the sector bringing about positive changes in women empowerment, child and maternal health, education, and other socio-economic sectors.
Tofail highlighted that the support and assistance of private sector like BGMEA and BKMEA, ILO, Alliance, Accord and a number of western countries including the US was critical for the government of Bangladesh in making substantial progress in a short period of time.
He highlighted the ongoing efforts of diversifying the export items and destinations for Bangladesh products.
The USTR, Ambassador Froman, thanked the Bangladesh Commerce Minister for successful conclusion of TICFA.
Congressman Levin termed the Tazreen fire and Rana Plaza collapse as a wakeup call for both Bangladesh and USA which drew massive publicity in the US media.
He called the initiatives of Accord and Alliance as important for the progress of the RMG sector as, what he said, he never sponsored any idea of deserting Bangladesh by the brands and retailers on the question of workers’ safety.
Undersecretary Novelli mentioned that the umbrella program for GSP is yet to be renewed and once renewed there may be opportunities for Bangladesh but in the meantime, she emphasized that, the remaining issues under the GSP Action Plan need to be addressed by Bangladesh.
Nisha Biswal appreciated the partnership between Bangladesh and the US to promote the issues of mutual interest.
She expressed interest in seeing a boost in intra-regional trade among the south Asian countries which is minimal vis-à-vis their external trade with the outside world.
Tofail Ahmed briefed her about the initiatives taken by Bangladesh to consolidate regional cooperation in trade, energy and connectivity.
He exchanged views on the garment sector with the North American retailers associations and brands over a breakfast meeting in the morning.
Chargé d’ affaires Muhammad A Muhith, Commercial Counsellor M Shafiqul Islam of the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC, and Director General of Fire Service and Civil Defence Brig Gen Ali Ahmed Khan were also present.
Tofail Ahmed is leading a delegation comprising the private sector members including Jatiya Sramik League President Suukur Mahmud, BGMEA President M Atiqul Islam and first Vice President Shahidullah Azim, and BKMEA first Vice President Mohammed Hatem.
The Commerce Minister was scheduled to meet several important congressmen at the Capitol Hill and will head for New York in the afternoon.
He will participate in a seminar on Bangladesh’s garment sector to be held at the Harvard University in Boston on June 14.