Dhaka keen to join a free-trade move

Dhaka Tribune | 3 Septembre 2013

Dhaka keen to join a free-trade move

Sheikh Shahariar Zaman

‘Of course, acceding to the Trans Pacific Partnership will not be easy as member-states need to address concerns regarding workers’ rights and protections, environmental protection and conservation, among other matters’

Bangladesh is interested to join a new initiative of rich nations in forming a free-trade group.

The country has already taken up its desire through its embassy in Washington as the developed countries currently negotiating the initiative titled “Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)”, aimed at boosting trade among the member countries.

Few other developing countries also expressed their interest to join the initiative.

It is expected that a free-trade agreement under the initiative would foster Asia-Pacific economic integration by facilitating greater trade and investment among the members.

“We are positively considering joining TPP and our embassy in Washington is looking after the issue,” an official of the foreign ministry told the Dhaka Tribune.

It would, however, be difficult to join the group as a new member due to harsh conditions being considered to be imposed on Bangladesh, said another official of the foreign ministry.

The countries currently negotiating the TPP include the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The group of the countries started negotiations on creation of the TPP in 2010 and the 19th round of negotiation concluded in Brunei last week. Taiwan, the Philippines, Laos, Colombia, Costa Rica and Indonesia showed interest to become its member.

The foreign ministry officials said the case of Bangladesh would be strong if there is a move to include Myanmar in the proposed trading block.

US ambassador Dan Mozena on Saturday urged Dhaka to join the group but, at the same time, cautioned that it would not be easy.

“Of course, acceding to the TPP will not be easy as member-states need to address concerns regarding workers’ rights and protections, environmental protection and conservation, among other matters,” he said.

The foreign ministry official recognised it would not be easy to become a member, but Bangladesh would get huge advantage in exports if it could join the group.

If Bangladesh has greater access to the US and other TPP member countries, it would help propel the country to become the largest exporter of readymade garments products, he added.

“We have to understand it is a rich nations’ club… almost all the negotiating members are developed countries,” he said.

Bangladesh, a least developed country thriving to become a middle income one by 2021, earned US$27bn in exports during the last fiscal year while, for the first time in a decade, experiencing negative import growth by 4.4%. It resulted in widening the current account surplus and appreciating Taka against US dollar.

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source: Dhaka Tribune