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Sunday, January 27, 2013
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US congress team in city

Garment issue on agenda

A four-member US Congressional delegation led by Jack Kingston arrived in Dhaka on a brief visit yesterday and would discuss contemporary issues including the GSP facility with top government officials and garment leaders.

The foreign ministry sources say the delegation came for a USAID programme and it is more like a private visit. But Dhaka is availing of the opportunity to hold meetings with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni when they will have talks in particular on the GSP issue, they add.

“The delegation has no political purpose,” said a senior official of the ministry.

The US Embassy in Dhaka did not provide any information of the Congressional delegation that arrived at 9:30 last night.

The other delegates are Representative Ed Whitfield (Republican-Kentucky), Representative Scott Tipton (Republican-Colorado) and Representative Adam Schiff (Republican-California).

The delegation is due to call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at 10:30am today. Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will host a lunch in honour of them at State guesthouse Padma when entire range of bilateral issues will come up for discussion.

Sources say the government high-ups during the discussion will be able to place the justification why Bangladesh should get duty-free access and GSP facilities.

Dhaka is considering the visit by the Congressional delegation highly crucial as they came amid recommendations by some Congressmen to withdraw, suspend or limit the duty-free access to Bangladesh's readymade garment products to the US market under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility.

Prior to depart Dhaka this afternoon, the Congressmen are expected to visit a few garment factories in the capital.

“We will again demand duty-free garment export to the US market to the visiting Congressmen because as an LDC [least developed country] Bangladesh has the right to enjoy zero-duty benefit to the American market,” said Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) over phone.

Meanwhile, ahead of the visit of the US Congressmen, Bangladeshi Ambassador in Washington DC Akramul Quader met them separately over the last few days. He handed them over documents on the importance of US GSP in Bangladesh's flourishing trade with the USA and the harsh impact of any restrictions to be imposed on Bangladesh in availing the GSP benefit.

On January 8, the US Trade Representative (USTR) office sought public comments from the stakeholders by January 31 on the possible withdrawal, suspension or limitation of Bangladesh's duty-free benefits under the GSP.

“The GSP Sub-committee is seeking public comments on the effect of a withdrawal, suspension, or limitation of GSP benefits on products imported into the United States from Bangladesh,” said a notice of the Washington-based US Trade Representative.

Some of the members of the US Congress had assured that they would take up Bangladesh's GSP facility issue at the appropriate level of the US authorities so that it could be resolved taking Bangladesh's best interest into account.

Meanwhile, Director Thomas Frieden of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention arrived yesterday on a two-day visit to discuss US-Bangladesh cooperation on public health issues with health officials in Bangladesh.

The Centres for Disease Control, a US federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, has been supporting Bangladesh for the last six years in fields ranging from upgrading laboratories to disease outbreak investigation.

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Few questions on this visit by US. Why should the foreign ministry say that they delegation is coming for a USAID programme but it is sort of private? Why is the US embassy silent? Why is the Foreign Ministry so excited as to arrange State level dinner and meeting with the PM? Why are all the members of the delegation named in The Daily Star from the Republican Party of US? Usually, USAID sponsored visits by congressional delegations have members from both Democratic and Republican parties. Who actually paid for the cost of the visit of this delegation? Is it something to cover up on behalf of garment manufacturers while garment factories in Bangladesh remain as some the most dangerous places to work? Is this to arrange support for exploitation of poor workers?

: Shatyabadi





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