Textiles lost free access for high competitiveness |
Claims Altaf after WTO meet; AL blasts him for letting down country's interest
Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Choudhury yesterday claimed that Bangladesh's textile exports were excluded from duty-free and quota-free market access in the latest WTO declaration because they are too competitive.
He said the US, Japan and some other developed countries praised Bangladesh's competitiveness and strength in the world textile economy, which prompted them to oppose Dhaka's demand for zero tariff entry of all products.
The minister, speaking at a press briefing on the just-concluded 6th WTO ministerial conference, also claimed that it was a major success of Bangladesh that its apparel products earned the developed countries' acclaim.
Commerce Ministry Adviser Barkat Ullah Bulu, Commerce Secretary Faruk Ahmed Siddique, CPD Research Director Dr Mostafizur Rahman and Director General of WTO Cell Mohammad Nasir Uddin also spoke at the briefing.
The draft WTO declaration was released on Sunday, the last day of the Hong Kong conference where the rich countries agreed to give duty and quota-free market access of 97 percent LDC (least developed countries) products, excluding textiles.
"Similar market access for the remaining three percent goods will be given in phases," Altaf said, adding that Bangladesh will get the chance to bargain for its textiles when the two follow-up meetings will be held in Geneva and Washington in 2006.
"Japan has already promised that it will not include Bangladesh's textiles in the three percent sensitive list," he said and pointed out that Bangladesh is getting duty-free and quota-free access to the European market under the GSP system.
The minister said Bangladesh will diversify its export basket in future with the help of developed countries and reduce dependence on readymade garment products.
Bangladesh is now paying 15.8 percent duties on its exports to the US which will be reduced gradually under the new WTO rules, he said. "Now we can export frog leg to aeroplane to all the developed countries without paying duty. Sky is our limit."
Dr Mostafizur Rahman said the US will finalise its list of 339 products, which will not get duty and quota-free access, through negotiations. "There have been some opportunities to keep some of the textile products out of the list," he added.
AL BLASTS ALTAF
Opposition Awami League yesterday blasted the commerce minister for failing to protect the country's interests in the just concluded sixth ministerial conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Hong Kong, reports BDNEWS.
"The commerce minister has returned from the WTO conference empty-handed that indicates a grim future for Bangladesh," said Abdul Jalil, AL general secretary and former commerce minister, at a press conference at the party office.
He feared the readymade garment industry will face uneven competition in the years to come and it may spell large-scale disaster for the national economy.
AL leaders Tofail Ahmed, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Motia Chowdhury, Suranjit Sengupta and Obaidul Kader were also present at the conference.