Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fate hangs in the balance

Mozena, Dipu Moni talk on Ticfa, GSP only diplomatically

Fate hangs in the balance The much-talked-about Ticfa deal was not related to the GSP facility, assured Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and US Ambassador Dan W Mozena yesterday.
Asked about Bangladesh’s prospect of retaining the US Generalised System of Preference (GSP) facilities, Mozena at a press conference in American Centre in the morning said, “The GSP review process is probably too far a long way at this point. It’s being evaluated right now.”
At another press conference in the foreign ministry in the afternoon, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said there was no link between the US GSP facility for Bangladesh and the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (Ticfa).
“Export to the USA under GSP is less than one percent of the country’s total export to the US. But the GSP facility is involved with the image of an exporting country like Bangladesh and we want GSP to continue so that it does not have any adverse impact on any other market,” she added.
Dipu Moni noted that it was important for all stakeholders including owners, buyers and the government to make contribution to retaining the GSP facility.
The government had undertaken steps regarding amendment of the labour law, work safety measures and trade union rights after the collapse of Rana Plaza and the fire incident in Tazreen Fashions, she said, adding, “After all these steps in place, response from the US side regarding GSP is positive.”
Asked whether the signing of Ticfa was conditional to retaining the GSP facility, the US envoy said, “Ticfa is Ticfa and it does only one thing, which is establishing a forum to meet once or twice a year and identifying obstacles to increase trade and investment, and overcoming those obstacles. It is not related to GSP … it is related to having a forum.”
He said the US had already signed Ticfa agreement with more than 40 countries. “If this is good for Bangladesh to have this forum, then let’s sign it. If it is not a good thing, Bangladesh should never sign it.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said it was a policy matter which was being discussed for long. Ticfa would be signed when all aspects of the proposed deal would meet the interests of both the sides.
Asked when the deal would be signed, she said, “Bangladesh will sign it [Ticfa] after the approval of the cabinet. But I have no idea when it will be placed in the cabinet meeting for passage … only the prime minister and the cabinet division can say it.”
Asked whether Textile and Jute Minister Abdul Latif Siddique had deviated from diplomatic norms by sending a letter to the US Ambassador protesting his remark on allowing trade union in the readymade garment sector, Dipu Moni avoided giving a direct answer.
She said, “Usually such letters go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the jute minister informed me that he had emailed the letter expressing his personal reaction. It was his personal letter.”
On this, the US ambassador said he would not comment on others’ statements. But he asserted that every one in all 50 states of the US had rights to form and join trade union.
“My comments about it are on online,” he added.