Included in the agenda at the eleventh hour, the proposal for signing the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (Ticfa) treaty was not tabled at the cabinet meeting on Monday.
The ministry of commerce had included the proposal as a supplementary agenda for the cabinet meeting on Sunday night, but backed off from placing it in the meeting to get the cabinet’s approval.
After the meeting, a senior minister told the Dhaka Tribune that the ministry was “prepared” to table the proposal at the cabinet meeting.
“But apparently, the commerce minister has not got the go-ahead from the prime minister to table it. He told me that he was unaware of the reason why,” he said.
Commerce Minister Ghulam Mohammad Quader, however, declined to comment on the matter.
According to commerce ministry officials, the government is planning to sign the Ticfa treaty with the USA, considering that it would help Bangladesh retain the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) facilities on the US market and get other benefits.
Earlier on Sunday, the commerce minister told journalists that Bangladesh would “gain more than it will lose” from the proposed Ticfa treaty, which, he said, would be signed soon.
Criticising those who “are making wrong assessment” of the proposed deal, the minister said, “I have read all the provisions of Ticfa. There are 16 preambles and seven provisions, all important for the country’s trade.
“The main objective of Ticfa is to bring together high officials of both the countries once a year to talk about development of commerce and investment between the two nations,” he said.
Asked if there was any pressure from the US to sign the treaty, he said, “There is no pressure...only 0.5% of Bangladeshi export items enjoy GSP facilities in the US market now. But the US is an important market for us, and hence the need to retain GSP.”
As Bangladesh faces a slowdown in the EU market, which is the largest destination for the country’s main export item – readymade garments – continuation of GSP facility in the US market has become a vital issue, GM Quader had earlier said.
“Ticfa will provide us with a platform for discussing such issues as retention of GSP,” he said.