The US government has expressed satisfaction over Bangladesh's improvement on issues such as workplace safety and labour rights, but Washington is making Dhaka wait for its decision on restoring the GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facility.
A senior official of Bangladesh's commerce ministry, who participated in the fifth meeting of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) on Thursday, revealed this to The Business Standard on condition of anonymity.
The official said the US delegation is pleased about the overall progress of our apparel industry under the supervision of Accord and Alliance in the last five years, but they admitted that the restoration of the GSP facility is now a political matter.
Bangladesh made yet another appeal to the USA for restoring the GSP facility during the day-long Ticfa meeting held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dhaka.
Washington suspended the facility for Bangladesh in 2013, after the deadly collapse of Rana Plaza killed more than 1,100 people, questioning workplace safety and labour rights in the country's garment sector.
Most victims of that tragedy were readymade garment workers.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin said, "Bangladesh has demanded restoration of the GSP facility under the agenda of preferential market access. We told them [US delegation] that we are definitely ahead in many areas of compliance, and they also noted our progress.
"The delegation has given us assurance of conveying Bangladesh's progress in the apparel industry to higher levels of the American government."
At the meeting, the US delegation also expressed satisfaction over the formation of trade unions, following the latest amendment of Bangladesh's labour law.
"We sought support from the USA to overcome the challenges regarding our graduation to a developing country, especially for trade-related training, capacity building, and technology and knowledge transfer," said the commerce secretary.
He added that in response, the US delegation has assured of providing capacity building support through the USAID.
Bangladesh also sought fairer prices for its apparel products as it has invested a large amount of money to ensure compliance as per the requirement of buyers from the USA and the EU. This investment has an impact on the cost of apparel production.
"The delegation requested Bangladesh to allow import of US cotton without fumigation, but we have convinced them that it is a technical and legal issue, and also a threat to our agriculture and environment," Jafar Uddin said.
Bangladesh performs fumigation in two stages at the port-entry level to make sure that cotton imported from the USA is free from Boll Weevil (a type of insect), he added.
The commerce secretary revealed that the USA is also keen on investing in sectors such as the ICT and digital trade.
"We told them that we have 100 economic zones and they can invest there," he added.
Assistant US Trade Representative for South and Central Asia Christopher Wilson and Bangladesh's Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin led the respective delegations in the day-long meeting.