Trade chief MEP Dr Sajjad Karim has advised Bangladesh to deliver on its commitments under its present favourable ‘Everything-but-Arms’ (EBA) trade status or risk losing it.
“This is my honest assessment though - so far as this House is concerned - unless and until we see some concrete delivery of results extremely quickly, I'm afraid we'll see moves in this House that create roadblocks in terms of further positive developments of EU-Bangladesh relations,” he said in Brussels on Wednesday.
Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Dr Karim, who chairs the South Asia Trade Monitoring Committee within the European Parliament, made the warning at the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee (INTA) during a discussion on the implementation of the Sustainability Compact for Bangladesh in Brussels.
He said he does not like to use alarmist language, but he sees the direction of travel. “You can see what is happening in terms of neighbouring countries. We have of course taken the view, and the INTA Committee has led on this, that there has to be a trade space provided for Bangladesh, bearing in mind the Rohingya crisis.”
He stated his concern that the country needed to show tangible results on its present obligations, reports UNB.
Bangladesh currently enjoys the benefits of the EBA scheme, which grants full duty-free and quota-free access to the EU single market for all products except arms and armaments.
EBA preferences can be withdrawn in case of some exceptional circumstances, notably in case of serious and systematic violation of principles laid down in fundamental human and labour rights conventions, a statement said.
Speaking in Brussels, the British MEP said they have been constantly appealing to the government of Bangladesh to make progress on its commitments under the Everything-but-Arms scheme to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
“Whilst we can see that there has been an improvement, more must be done. The Accord is at a critical juncture and commitments from the government of Bangladesh towards the Sustainability Compact are highly insufficient, as demonstrated by the technical status report recently published,” he said.
Dr Karim said the roadmap is here, requirements are on the table and now they need to see tangible results and steps in the right direction.
“It must be clear that we're at a crucial stage and we're moving ever so slowly from issuing further notifications for action to actual action. It has been initiated in terms of investigative reviews for withdrawal of the GSP mechanism for Myanmar and Cambodia. Bangladesh could be the next on the list,” he added.
Dr Karim said this parliament needs to see much more constructive delivery. “Words alone and particularly nice words alone are no longer enough.”
The caution by Dr Karim follows an intervention earlier this year where he expressed his desire to see trade space created for the South Asian country in the wake of the Rohingya crisis Bangladesh is currently facing, as well as a visiting delegation to Brussels last month for the 4th follow-up meeting of the Sustainability Compact.
Dr Karim stated that graduation from the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade status to the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP+) was not to be taken for granted.
The Sustainability Compact was launched on July 8, 2013 following the tragic Rana Plaza Collapse, where over 1000 people died.
It was designed to promote continuous improvements in labour rights and factory safety in the Ready Made Garment (RMG) and Knitwear Industry in Bangladesh, bringing together the European Union, the Government of Bangladesh, the United States, Canada and the International Labour Organisation, accompanied by employers, trade unions and other key stakeholders.
The Compact is built on short- and long-term commitments related to three inter-linked pillars: 1) respect for labour rights; 2) structural integrity of buildings and occupational safety and health; and 3) responsible business conduct.