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Tofail alerts US retailers about negative campaign against Bangladesh

B1-busi-tofail_0Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed has expressed dissatisfaction over a negative campaign against Bangladesh by certain quarters across the world despite the country’s lot of achievements in many areas.

“Certain quarters tend to downplay the achievements while overplaying the negatives,” he told major US retailers in New York on Friday, according to a message received here yesterday.

He was exchanging views with the retailers as part of his efforts to recover the image of the country’s apparel industry that tarnished to some extent after the fatal incidents of Tazreen Fashion fire and Rana Plaza tragedy. The US authorities suspended the GSP facilities for Bangladesh, as a result.

Tofail pointed out that the RMG sector being the second largest supplier of the world’s apparel demand has greatly contributed to empower Bangladesh’s women and stabilise society in a big way.

He hoped that the rest of the world, particularly the Western buyers, get a right perspective of the RMG sector as the distorted picture might have misled some quarters about the ground reality in Bangladesh.

Tofail, however, expressed satisfaction over the substantial export growth, despite the negative propaganda after the Rana Plaza collapse, thanks to the global retailers, including the US ones.

He informed the meeting about the steps taken after the Rana Plaza incident while referring to the reforms and amendments in the regulatory regime, setting out the issues of workers’ safety and labour rights as foremost priorities.

The minister expressed disappointment over the suspension of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) and said Bangladesh had the rightful claims for it as well as duty-free access of its RMG products to the US market as an LDC.

Representatives of the retailers included Li & Fung, JC Penney, Hudson Bay Company, American Eagle Outfitters, American Apparel and Footwear Association were keen to know the details of the progress made so far about the workers’ safety and factory standards.

Tofail also held a meeting with the editorial board of the New York Times at its office in the city and urged the US media, including the NYT, to help project the impressive achievements made in Bangladesh.

 Efforts to get GSP restored

Meanwhile, the commerce minister requested US Congressman Steve Chabot to support Bangladesh for GSP restoration as well as granting duty-free market access of Bangladeshi apparels to the US markets.

In response, Chabot, also Chairman of the US Congress Sub Committee on Asia and the Pacific, said he would keep on discussing with his colleagues in the US Congress over restoration of GSP benefits for Bangladesh.

The issue came up for discussions during a meeting between them held in Washington recently.

Earlier, the government submitted a progress report on ‘Bangladesh Action Plan 2013’ to the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for reviewing Bangladesh’s GSP benefits.

The legal authorisation for the GSP programme expired on July 31, 2013 and the US Congress is considering a legislation that would extend the authorisation of GSP beyond this date, according to the USTR.

Bangladesh’s main export apparels had always remained out of the GSP purview, subjecting garment makers to 15.61% duty in the US markets. Before GSP suspension, Bangladesh used to export 0.54% of its total export, or $26 million, under the GSP scheme to the US in a year.

Congressman Chabot said Bangladesh is an important partner of the USA, and both the countries are closely working on counterterrorism, climate change, democracy and human rights.

He praised Bangladesh for its impressive social development and economic growth.

Tofail Ahmed also met a panel of Congressmen and Congresswoman consisting of Joseph Crowley, also co-chair of the Bangladesh Caucus, Eliot L Engel, Grace Meng, George Miller and Jan Schakowsky.

The Commerce Minister briefed that on the RMG workers’ rights and safety issues in Bangladesh.

Later, he held a meeting with a panel of five Democrat Congressmen who have been demonstrating serious interest in Bangladesh’s RMG industry in recent years.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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