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Bangladesh discusses position on new proposed clause
Third phase of TIFA negotiations with USA begins Sunday
Shakhawat Hossain

          Bangladesh will raise its objection to the inclusion of a clause relating to bribery and corruption in the proposed trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) with the US government.
The country will press hard for replacing the words -- bribery and corruption -- in the relevant clause with the word, 'transparency,' during the upcoming negotiations, beginning in Dhaka from February 13 (Sunday), sources said.
This was decided Thursday at a high level inter-ministerial meeting, chaired by new commerce secretary Siddiqur Rahman. The meeting discussed the country's position for the third round of negotiations on the purposed TIFA deal.
Siddiqur Rahman, however, declined to disclose the outcome of the meeting.
"We are considering many options and so far nothing has been confirmed", he told the FE.
But sources in the commerce ministry said the meeting has decided to object to the inclusion of such wordings -- bribery and corruption -- in the proposed clause for 'technical reasons'.
The meeting was attended by the officials from the law and foreign ministries, the Board of Investment (BOI) and Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) as well as leaders of the chamber bodies.
"Under new conditions, the charges of bribery and corruption random may at random be brought against Bangladesh," said an official on condition of anonymity.
The office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has already sent the new draft in which the new clause calling for elimination of bribery and corruption in international trade and investment was incorporated.
Betsee E Steelman, a senior US trade policy advisor for Asia and Pacific affairs, is scheduled to arrive on February 13 on a five-day visit to finalise the TIFA draft.
The agreement is expected to be finalised during the visit of Steelman. The US has addressed all the major concerns that Bangladesh raised over the second TIFA draft, according to a senior commerce ministry official.
The US has, however, agreed to Bangladesh's proposal for exclusion of issues related to labour laws, environment and intellectual property rights from the main text.
Dhaka had pleaded for exclusion of issues related to labour laws, environment and intellectual property rights from the main text of the agreement since the US included them in the first and second TIFA draft.
Earlier, two rounds of negotiations on the proposed agreement were held in Dhaka in August 2003 and March 2004. Those meetings were attended by the US assistant trade representative, Ashley Wills.
The second TIFA draft made introduction of trade union in all areas and mandatory protection of labour rights, in line with the international practices, as conditions for the TIFA deal.
The third draft calls for formation of a joint council between two countries for monitoring trade and investment relations and to identify the opportunities for expansion of trade.
The US ambassador to Bangladesh, Harry K Thomas has recently said economic relations between the two countries would further be deepened after the signing of the framework agreement.
He also termed the agreement a first step towards concluding a bilateral free-trade accord between the US and Bangladesh.


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