Hasina urges US to allow duty-free access of Bangladesh apparel

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called upon the US authorities to give Bangladesh duty-free and quota-free access of its apparel items to their market so Bangladesh could expand its readymade garments (RMG) industry and establish a modern society.

The premier was speaking before the audience at the luncheon, hosted by the Business Council of International Understanding (BCIU) at Hotel Waldorf Astoria in New York yesterday.

“As Bangladesh strives to achieve its aspired goals, I urge you to come forth and partner with us in this journey of mutual profits and prosperity … importantly, such a lucrative partnership would also strengthen our two countries’ friendship,” BSS quoted Sheikh Hasina as saying.

The prime minister said Bangladesh has the most liberal investment policy in South Asia. It includes protection of foreign investment by law; generous tax holiday; concessionary duty on import of machinery; remittances of royalty; 100% foreign equity; unrestricted exit policy; full repatriation of dividend and capital on exit; to name a few.

Moreover, she said, around 100 Exclusive Economic Zones are being established with a dozen ready to receive foreign private labour intensive industries. Meantime, Bangladesh and the USA have signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty and the Convention on Avoidance of Double Taxation.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is ready for US investment in power, energy, especially renewable and green energy; shipbuilding and recycling; automobile and light engineering; chemical fertilizers; agro-processing; pharmaceuticals; ceramic and plastic goods; ICT; marine resources extraction’ tourism; medical equipment; telecommunications and knowledge based high tech industries.

She said many of these products would find duty free and quota free access to all the 52 countries giving Bangladesh these privileges.

The prime minister said that it would be vital for the USA to give Bangladesh apparel duty and quota free access to its market in a bid to expand Bangladesh apparel industry, employ and empower more girls and help establish a modern society.

“USA would then be as fair as the 52 other countries, like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, Japan, India and the European Union that gives Bangladesh duty and quota-free access to their markets,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said the relationship between the USA and Bangladesh has been moving to higher planes since she became Prime Minister in 2009.

“Today, our two countries have the best of relations. This is evident from the outcome of Secretary John Kerry’s recent visit to Bangladesh. Indeed, our strategic Partnership is getting broader and deeper with time. This growing relationship is reflected in our two countries’ business relations,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina said the American companies are still the largest investors. Last year, they invested half a billion or 25% of the total FDI to Bangladesh.

In trade, the US is still the largest single country destination of Bangladeshi products. “Our two countries’ bilateral trade reached US$7 billion last year. It could be more if the high tariffs and compliance issues on Bangladeshi apparel to US market were removed,” the prime minister said.

She said it should be as Bangladesh is an LDC adding that as many other LDCs do not have these protectionist measures imposed on them by USA.

Instead, she said that the US in 2013 sadly suspended its GSP privileges to Bangladesh terming it as an unkind act. Even sadder was when US in 2015 restored its GSP privileges to all South Asian countries, except Bangladesh.

She said since Bangladesh’s main export to the USA is apparel, this industry employs 4 million workers, of which 90% are girls from poor families. Their earnings have empowered them. Their contributions now provide better nutritional food, allow siblings to go to schools, and give them a respected voice at home. Their empowerment is also helping reduce poverty, control population growth and increase literacy.

“Significantly, this trend is supporting our fight against extremism and terrorism by transforming our society into a progressive one. For these efforts to succeed, it is vital for the US to give Bangladesh apparel duty and quota free access to its market. It would expand Bangladesh apparel industry, employ and empower more girls and help establish a modern society,” the prime minister said.

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