Duty free access of readymade garment products to USA
Bangladesh has sought a two-year duty-free access for its RMG products to the US market as the Coronavirus pandemic put the major export-earning sector in dilemma amid cancellation of global orders. Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen made this request while talking to his counterpart the US Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, who has also been serving as assistant to US President Donald Trump.
However, this call was a crucial one to ensure sustainability of our RMG products in the US market. The single largest market for our RMG products is the United States of America. Moreover, Bangladesh is the fourth largest supplier to the US following China, Vietnam and India. In terms of sourcing, developments of the last three years suggest that the total US market is declining - a $7 billion decline from 2015 to 2016. Most of this decline was in China's exports [almost $5 billion] and all other major suppliers lost sales [in value] except for Vietnam what increased slightly. So, Bangladesh is not performing poorly over the past two years; it has understandably lost a little as everyone has. The biggest challenge now has surfaced with the Coronavirus outbreak. Even though all RMG producing countries have been hit by the global pandemic, but our RMG sector has to ensure the minimisation of losses while maintaining the current global market share.
Concurrently, the country's RMG sector is now producing Covid-19 protection equipment like PPE and masks. US companies can import more such types of medical equipment from Bangladesh in combating the deadly virus there.
And not only with the US, must we also become proactive diplomatically to protect our business interests in the EU countries. It is encouraging to note that our Swedish buyers have promised not to cancel orders. Following Sweden, other European countries should follow similar course of action.
Last of all, now is the time to practice crisis time diplomacy and efficiently negotiate our trade deals with other countries. The ministry of foreign affairs can well engage private sector experts, business community representatives and if necessary arrange comprehensive bilateral talks and meetings with different countries. Analysing the current reality, we believe the US government will come forward to seriously consider our call on the two-year duty-free access of our RMG products to the US market, thus aiding Bangladesh to sustain and grow its RMG imports to USA.