Diversification will ease duty-free access to US

Bangladesh should lay emphasis on diversifying products and markets to broaden its export basket instead of relying on a few items and overseas buyers, experts at a seminar said Monday.

They made the call at the seminar titled 'Duty-Free Quota- Free Access to US Market' organised by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) in cooperation with German Technical Cooperation (gtz) and Power & Participation Research Centre (PPRC) at its auditorium in the capital.

DCCI president Abul Kasem Khan chaired the seminar, while Annisul Huq, president, Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FBCCI), Fazlul Hoque, president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), Mustafizur Rahman, executive director, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and former ambassador Toufiq Ali spoke.

Fazlul Haque said: "There is little hope of getting something from the negotiations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). So we have to beef up bilateral negotiations."

Labour standard of the industry has to be improved for duty-free access to the US market, he said.

Mr Fazlul said local exporters have to know whether they have any chance in the USA. "If there is scope for any improvement, then we have to strengthen our drives. Otherwise, we have to search for new markets."

Annisul Huq said Bangladesh has been pursuing the duty-free access since 2000. "It is sort of mirage. It is tough to attain but we have to continue the fight."

He said the USA imports over 10,800 products from across the world, of which 84 per cent are duty-free. "But Bangladesh exports only 420 types of those products to the USA."

The FBCCI chief said the country's exporters have to emphasise efficiency, as the duty-free access would be valueless after five to seven years. "We have to find out new export destinations and scale up manufacturing high-value products."

DCCI director Asif Ibrahim said Bangladesh has to utilise the generalised system of preferences (GSP) facility properly to enter the US market rather than trying to win duty-free access.

"We can export 4,800 different products under the GSP, but we are currently sending around 330 products. We have to diversify our products to augment our market share," he said.

Arshad Zaman, director, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said the labour standard issue would not be able to deter the progress in the country's apparel sector.

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