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Duty-Free RMG Export

WTO chief for talks with US Congress

Pascal Lamy

Bangladesh should continue negotiation with the US Congress for a duty-free access of the country's main export items to the American market, Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), said yesterday.

At present, Bangladesh garment exporters pay 15.3 percent duty to enter the US market as the American government did not give duty-free access despite commitment for the same.

A negotiation is underway in the WTO to this end, Lamy told reporters after a meeting with Commerce Minister Ghulam Muhammed Quader at State Guest House Padma in Dhaka.

“It is true the US government is not yet providing duty-free access of Bangladeshi garment items to the US market. This is one of the areas where the WTO is yet to succeed. But the negotiation is going on,” said Lamy, who arrived in Dhaka on a two-day visit yesterday.

Bangladesh pays nearly $1 billion in duty charges a year to the US customs, he said, adding that the US was the only country where Bangladesh's garment items were not getting duty-free access.

“We are aware of the problem of duty-free access of Bangladesh's garment items to the US market. This has been under the negotiation of the WTO.

“This is my dream, but this is not like the real world. The whole game is to convince the US Congress,” Lamy said.

This is his second visit to Bangladesh in a year, and the main purpose of this trip is to visit Chittagong.

WTO's purpose is not only to deal with tariff and trade, but also to facilitate and make trade easier. “I will understand and listen from the businessmen in Chittagong tomorrow [today]. I will also see the expansion of the Chittagong port for future.”

Regarding tariff and global trade, Lamy said tariff was certainly lower now than it was supposed to be. He said he was satisfied on the current tariff structure for global trade as the WTO member countries had subscribed the WTO disciplines.

“The countries have committed to lower the tariff. The trade is much easier today.

“Tariffs are sometimes obstacle to trade. This is an area which will be discussed this year in priority in the WTO under multilateral arrangement to streamline, simplify and eliminate tariff,” Lamy said.

Commerce Minister GM Quader said: “The WTO is assisting Bangladesh in expanding its trade globally. Lamy has a soft corner for Bangladesh.”

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