Do we need TICFA?

MY first concern is that given our existence within a global setting, where we have global trading systems monitored by international organisations like WTO, why is it important to sign a bilateral treaty with the US.
Bangladesh tariff structure and trade relations with US should hardly be an issue for the latter because we export about 23% of our garment to them; yet the US is still not honouring the WTO principles on providing the standard tariff structures for Bangladeshi exports.
When other countries have a one percent tariff rate — some even less — as they enter the US market, Bangladesh garments sector faces 15%. This is a protectionist policy against Bangladesh. The US is also not providing any GSP facility to this sector. Bangladesh should ask them to remove this discrimination.
There is an additional danger for us in signing the TICFA. In terms of the intellectual property rights on new goods here, they will be in a position to impose restrictions on Bangladeshi products such as pharmaceuticals and the IT industry.
With regard to media reports showing TICFA’s focus on Bangladesh labour standards, I think no one should use this issue as an instrument to create any imposition. Bangladesh has its own legal framework to work on and the government should strengthen it to improve our labour standards.
Countries like Sri Lanka had signed TICFA, with the promise of getting GSP facilities in its garment sector but till today they are faced with a 12% tariff rate, while others including France enjoy a tariff rate of one percent.
It is a myth that the US aids Bangladesh but in reality, we pay them six times more than the total loan and aid that flow in from them. Bangladesh has paid US$750 million as tariff on its garments. So when US places drastic discrimination, Bangladesh should ask them to have this removed instead of finding another agreement that would create more impediments for Bangladesh.

(May 19, 2013 Published by The Daily Star)