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All attention to GSP action plan

Global focus on March-end deadline

By UNB, DHAKA
14th-Feb-2014       
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Bangladesh needs to demonstrate the real progress in enhancement of labour standards and factory safety fulfilling the remaining conditions related to GSP Action Plan and Sustainability Compact by March-end deadline and before the first anniversary of Rana Plaza tragedy, said top diplomats here on Thursday.
They said though there has been some progress, lot more needs to be done mentioning that the international community, including the global press, will monitor the progress very closely.
The diplomats said all the focuses are now on the March deadline to fulfill the remaining conditions outlined in the GSP Action Plan, and the first Rana Plaza tragedy anniversary on April 24.
The three diplomats came up with the observations after a meeting with the Commerce, Labour and Foreign secretaries that held at the Foreign Ministry.
Five ambassadors, including US Ambassador Dan W Mozena, European Union (EU) Ambassador to Bangladesh William Hanna, German Ambassador Albrecht Conze and Canadian High Commissioner Heather Cruden, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed and   Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar were, among others, present. Talking to reporters, Mozena said he is very impressed with the progress made at the meeting between the three secretaries and five ambassadors. "A good roadmap has been laid out for additional progress in the weeks ahead, and I'm encouraged that all the focuses on the end of March and having these different elements set in place."
He mentioned that all the stakeholders are coming together to address the 'various elements' of GSP Action Plan and Sustainability Compact.  "So, a good progress is being made. And the focus is on the March-end deadline."
Earlier on Wednesday, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said a progress report on GSP Action Plan will be submitted (to USTR) by April 15 after fulfilling all the conditions by March 30.
Mozena also appreciated the leadership being provided by the three secretaries in addressing the shortcomings.
Responding to a question, the US diplomat said people want to get the GSP restored, and the roadmap on the GSP Action Plan will have to be followed.
Heather Cruden said they had a very good discussion today and mentioned that it is very important for Bangladesh to demonstrate progress, particularly by the anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedies coming up on April 24.
"Because the international community will be looking to this the anniversary very closely… so, there're lots of works that need to be done between now and then to meet the commitments that had been outlined in the Sustainability Compact and other documents," she said.
The Canadian diplomat informed that there will be lots of press and lots of visitors from countries who are buying garments from Bangladesh as they want to see progress in the areas of labour standards, fire safety, building safety, labour court and union.
"…so, these are all of the issues we've been discussing. We're making some progress, but there're more works that need to be done," Cruden added.
Responding to a question, the diplomat said the meeting is part of the ongoing discussions on a number of commitments Bangladesh made in documents and the documents Bangladesh has signed.
She said it needs to be made sure that issues are addressed maintaining the deadline, and there are lots of works that need to be done.
William Hanna said they, apart from many other things, they talked about the transparent database which is the key part of the Suitability Compact. "We had a good discussion on factory safety, inspection and other issues…so, there has been some progress but lots more need to be done."
US President Barac Obama, on June 27, 2013, issued a proclamation suspending Bangladesh's GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) trade benefits based on the Bangladesh government's failure to meet the GSP statutory eligibility criterion of "taking steps to afford internationally-recognised worker rights to workers in the country."
At the time of the President's decision, the United States provided the government of Bangladesh with a GSP 'Action Plan' listing specific actions that Bangladesh should take to provide a basis for the reinstatement of GSP benefits.
The Action Plan specifically calls for improving labour, fire, and building standards, removing obstacles to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and reforming labour laws.
Meanwhile, the EU, ILO and Bangladesh government reached a tripartite agreement, titled 'Global Sustainability Compact', in Geneva that envisages improvements in terms of labour rights, their working conditions and factory safety, especially in the RMG sector.
The initiative sets a nine-month deadline for Bangladesh to improve building and fire safety conditions in the RMG factories by June 2014.

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