Bangladesh Pledges to Drop Tariffs on Fire Safety Equipment, Seeks U.S. Preferences
The inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Bangladesh Forum on Trade and Investment, which was established under the bilateral Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement to identify and resolve obstacles to increasing bilateral trade and investment, was held April 28 in Dhaka. Lead U.S. official Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for South and Central Asia Michael Delaney reportedly said that the meeting was “a great start” and that the U.S. delegation “learned a lot.” The next Forum meeting will take place in Washington, D.C., in 2015.
According to a USTR press release, the two sides discussed a number of trade and investment issues at the April 28 meeting , including investment rules, intellectual property protection, fumigation requirements for cotton imports into Bangladesh, regional economic development, and cooperation in South and Southeast Asia. The Forum also reviewed Bangladesh’s efforts to address the worker rights and worker safety issues in the action plan the U.S. prescribed for reinstating Generalized System of Preferences benefits for goods made in Bangladesh. Press reports indicate that discussions also covered market access for goods and services, including Bangladesh’s interest in obtaining preferential treatment in the U.S. market similar to that extended to sub-Saharan African and Caribbean countries. In addition, the U.S. proposed the creation of a Labor Affairs Committee and a Committee on Women’s Economic Empowerment.
USTR states that officials praised the efforts of private sector initiatives to address worker safety in Bangladesh, including fire safety and building safety issues, following last year’s collapse of an apparel factory that killed over 1,000 workers. The U.S. also welcomed plans announced by the government of Bangladesh to eliminate tariffs and other charges on fire safety equipment (e.g., sprinklers, fire doors and electrical equipment) to make the costs of building remediation less expensive for factories.