Dhaka upset over Islamabad’s stand on exports to US: Reports

June 7th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 7 (IANS) Bangladesh is upset that Pakistan is opposing its duty-free access to the US garments market that also has India as a major player, according to media reports here.
Dhaka is miffed that Islamabad is siding with some African countries to oppose any moves by 15 least developed countries (LDCs) including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal to enter the US market that already has India, China and Vietnam as major competitors, New Age newspaper said Sunday.

Along with the African countries, Pakistan is opposing privileged market access to Bangladesh envisaged in a recently re-introduced bill in the US Senate, the daily quoted Pakistani newspaper The News as saying. The US Senate thinks the move could help the 14 counter religious extremism.

The News said Pakistan’s Federal Textile Adviser Mirza Ikhtiar Baig has 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”.

A move favouring Dhaka would hurt Pakistan’s interest, Islamabad thinks, and is lobbying against it. Bangladesh learnt of the development from officials at American importing houses in Dhaka.

“Governments and stakeholders in Africa are making preparations for opposing duty-free access of Bangladesh,” a leading knitwear exporter told New Age.

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.

“Bangladesh needs to put best efforts by taking other beneficiaries and supporters of bill beside her,” he suggested.

Mustafizur Rahman, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said such opposition was not unexpected.

He advised Dhaka to seek leverage from African countries from whom Bangladesh imports huge quantities of cotton.

While introducing the bill May 21, US senators argued that such privileged market access would help eliminate the roots of extremism in some Asian countries by creating jobs, reducing poverty and ensuring political stability.

The bill sought duty-free access for textiles made in Bangladesh, apart from a slew of countries that include Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Among the LDCs listed in the bill, Bangladesh is the largest apparel exporter, shipping around $3.4 billion of its $11.7 billion worth of apparel in 2008 to the US.

Earlier in 2007, a similar bill titled “New Partnership for Development Act” was introduced in the US Congress by Representative Jim McDermott. The bill faced opposition from some African countries and a section of US manufacturers.

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