What Washington really wants in Bangladesh?

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Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and their ideological ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) must be in triumphant mood thinking America may soon either stop or decrease buying apparel products from Bangladesh as recently the United States has accused Bangladesh of exporting clothing with counterfeit international brands.

According to media reports, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on February 10, 2023, through the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington, has pressed a complained to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the export of counterfeit clothes from Bangladesh to the country using popular US and French brands. The letter asked to respond to the allegations by February 13. Dhaka has already sent reply and sought time for giving detailed explanation on this matter. But industry insiders are fearing, USTR may recommend punitive measures on Bangladesh and substantially reduce import of textile products.

In a letter sent through the embassy, ​​the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Paris-based Union des Fabrics (UNIFAB) have accused Bangladesh of supplying counterfeit brands. In the complaint, AAFA said, despite Bangladesh being an important source for the procurement of ready-made garments, there is an absence of established policies to protect intellectual property. The two organizations submitted the complaint with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in January last year. Based on that complaint, the USTR has informed the Ministry of Commerce of Bangladesh about the initiation of the review.

According to the AAFA complaint, 56 shipments of counterfeit products manufactured in Bangladesh were seized in 2022 – a 50 percent increase over 2021. Australia, Italy, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Germany and the Philippines have been accused of supplying counterfeit goods.

If the AAFA and UNIFAB complaint are proven after the review, the United States may take measures such as imposing additional duties, setting quotas, or even banning the clothes made in Bangladesh. As a result, other countries that buy clothes from Bangladesh may also significantly reduce their purchase orders.

Bangladesh’s main export market is the United States. About 20 percent of the total exports of Bangladesh as a single country are exported to the United States. According to data from the US Office of Textiles and Apparel (OTEXA), Bangladesh’s garment exports to the country in 2022 increased by 36.4 percent compared to the previous year in 2021 and reached nearly US$10 billion. The United States imports about US$100 billion worth of clothing annually, with Bangladesh accounting for about 10 percent. Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data analysis shows that 20 years ago in 2001-02 fiscal year i.e. in 12 months, Bangladesh earned a total of US$5 billion from export of goods. And now in one month more than export earning only from the garment sector stands at US$4.5 billion dollars.

Hopefully Bangladesh authorities will be able to act fast in resolving this matter with the US authorities soon. Because, if the matter gets further complicated and US reduces of stop buying apparel items from Bangladesh, it will directly affect hundreds and thousands of workers – mainly female in the sector, while a significant portion of these workers may become jobless. It surely will be a massive disaster both for Bangladesh’s garment sector as well the country, as political opponents of the ruling Awami League will certainly try to take undue advantage of the situation.

Next general election in Bangladesh

On February 15, 2023, State Derek Chollet, the Counselor to its Secretary of State paid a courtesy call on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. During the meeting Sheikh Hasina said the next parliamentary election would be held here in a free and fair manner as the Election Commission (EC) of Bangladesh is completely independent.

She told Chollet, “The next election will be fair and free. I fought for democracy throughout my life”.

Sheikh Hasina said if the people vote for Awami League (AL) in the next general election, her party will take the charge of governing the country.

“I never want to come to power through vote-rigging”, she added.

The prime minister said she always struggled for the people’s rights to food and vote.

She said the first-ever EC’s reconstitution law was passed in parliament and then a neutral election commission was constituted on the basis of the law.

The EC is completely independent and it has administrative and financial independence, she added.

The prime minister said there is no base of any political party other than Awami League (AL) at grassroots level in the country. BNP and Jatiya Party were born in the cantonment, she said.

Focusing on the development of Bangladesh in different socio-economic index, Sheikh Hasina said the transformation of Bangladesh has become visible in the last 14 years during her government.

It has been possible due to the continued democratic practice and stability in the country, she added.

Russia-Ukraine war and Rohingya issues also came up for discussion in the meeting.

The prime minister said the world should stop this war as it has caused high inflation and commodity prices throughout the globe.

“A war never can bring any benefit for mankind”, she quoted.

Mentioning that the USA is the most powerful country, she said the USA can take steps to stop the war. The disputes can be settled through negotiation, she said.

About Rohingya, the premier said the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals have become a big burden for Bangladesh, adding local communities of Cox’s Bazar are suffering and they have become minority due to the influx of such huge number of Rohingyas there.

She said the Rohingyas are being involved in different criminal activities like drug and human trafficking, militancy and infightings.

The premier also said the displaced Myanmar nationals have been staying in Cox’s Bazar for five years and now it is difficult to keep them there as its natural environment and the livelihood of locals are at stake.

In this context, Derek Chollet thanked the prime minister for giving shelter to the Rohingya people on humanitarian ground.

He said they would try their best for the repatriation of the displaced people.

However, the counselor to the Secretary of State of US hoped the repatriation will be possible when a democratic government come again in power in Myanmar.

He said some recent high-level visits of US officials to Bangladesh are a reflection of the importance of the bilateral relations between the two countries. This relation will grow further, Chollet added.

Can we believe what Derek Chollet said? Considering Biden administration’s tendencies of playing rogue diplomacy throughout the world and his eagerness of pushing the world towards WWIII, and possibility of Biden getting impeached soon, it is rather impractical to believe, he will be sincere with Bangladesh or any other country in the world. Let us not forget, Biden did not invite Bangladesh to his so-called Summit for Democracy, which will take place on March 29-30 this year.

In our neighboring India, we are seeing how George Soros, one of the top donors of Joe Biden’s Democratic Party is attempting to play foul, whereas Soros has openly proclaimed of unseating Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is seen by analysts as an evil attempt of Soros and his Islamist-leftist cronies in destabilizing India and disrupting its prosperity.

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