DHAKA, June 17: Bangladesh on Monday approved a trade agreement with the United States as it comes under intense pressure from Washington to improve labour rights following a series of factory disasters.
Bangladesh’s Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, agreed the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA) to be signed with the United States, cabinet secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told AFP.
The deal will lead to stronger trade and investment ties between the two countries on the back of growing Bangladeshi garment exports to the US, he said.
The deal will also “ensure protection of intellectual property, curb corruption and ensure labour rights”, he told reporters.
Bangladeshi trade officials have said Washington proposed the deal several years ago, but Dhaka resisted signing the accord because of concerns it could lead to scrutiny of the country’s poor labour and intellectual property laws.
Dhaka’s position reversed after it came under intense pressure, including from Western governments, to improve working conditions in the country’s 4,500 garment factories following a series of industrial disasters that killed some 1,250 people.
A spokesperson for the US embassy in Dhaka welcomed Monday’s decision saying “we look forward to further discussion so that the agreement can be signed in the near future”.
Two-way goods trade between the countries totalled $5.4 billion in 2012, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative website.
Last week the US said it would soon decide whether to suspend Bangladesh from a duty-free accord as it urged Dhaka to take action to improve labour conditions.