Subject: Timor, Bangladesh Seek Duty-free access of products to American market

Duty-free access of products to American market-BGMEA lobbyist to move bill in US Congress by February 2

Friday January 14 2005 10:27:59 AM BDT

Bangladesh is going to move a bill in the American Congress by February 2 seeking duty-free access of products from Bangladesh and 13 other least developed countries to the US market.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association-appointed lobbyist in the United States would submit the bill titled "Least Developed Economies' Economic Development (LDEED) Act".

"It's a very hard task. But, it'll never happen unless we start the process," BGMEA president Annisul Huq told the news agency yesterday, apprising the latest developments concerning the initiative.

"The bill, if enacted, could bring about a revolution in the country's RMG industry," he said, informing that the bill seeks full duty waiver. The US charges 16 per cent import duty on average on the apparel items.

The US authorities have already awarded the market preference to 33 sub-Saharan and Caribbean countries out of 49 in the world's poor-country club (the group of LDCs).

Now, the apex trade body of Bangladesh's apparel industry is moving the bill for the rest of the countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Nepal Afghanistan and East Timor.

Bangladesh is the coordinator for the LDCs--the country's embassy in Washington has convened two meetings with the envoys of the other countries to mobilise their support to the legislative move.

Meanwhile, the BGMEA president yesterday met Commerce Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury apparently in an ice-melting session following the appointment of an administrator to the BGMEA by the government.

The minister was briefed about the bill and the present situation of the apparel industry, Annis said.

He apprised the minister that US President George W Bush is likely to visit India by middle of this year and explained the importance of a Bush trip to Bangladesh if possible to make it happen during that time.

He offered help of the BGMEA lobbyist in the USA to try to bring him in Dhaka.

Recently, the Finance Minister also assured them of government cooperation in this regard, he said. He also stressed the need for the Prime Minister's cooperation.

Replying to a question, the BGMEA president said the Commerce Minister assured them that the tussle between the government and the BGMEA over administrator appointment would be removed.

The Minister also assured BGMEA of "all government cooperation for the growth of the industry", he said.

Replying to another question, he expressed the hope that the BGMEA election slated for February 17 would be held as scheduled.


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