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28/09/2011: Bangladesh to export sleeping bags duty-free

Finally, Bangladesh-made sleeping bags retain the duty-free export facility in the US market till July 31 2013.

The decision came after the US Senate passed a legislation renewing the expired Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme on September 22.

“Finally, our efforts have paid off,” a commerce ministry official told The Daily Star yesterday.

The US instituted the GSP in 1976 by the Trade Act of 1974. Congressional authorisation of the GSP programme expired in December 2010. As of mid-September this year, the Congress had not reauthorised the programme, shadowing the export prospect of the Bangladesh-made sleeping bags.

The GSP provides preferential duty-free entry for about 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories, including Bangladesh. But Bangladesh does not benefit much from the GSP as there are no apparel products on the list of the preferential items.

The Bangladeshi sleeping bags used to enjoy the GSP in the US market till 2010 as it does not fall under the textile category. But a blow came in late 2010 when Excel Outdoors, a US manufacturing company, lodged a petition with the United States Trade Representative to request cancellation of the GSP for sleeping bag imports from Bangladesh.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama also lodged an objection in December last year demanding a ban of duty-free import of sleeping bags. Sessions argued that sleeping bags should be subject to tariff, like other textiles, because the item competes with American manufacturers.

Bangladesh did not only protest the inclusion of sleeping bags in the textile category but also lobbied strongly involving exporters.

Bangladesh had to face at least two hearings before the United States International Trade Commission on the GSP facility for Bangladesh-made sleeping bags.

Duties on the export of sleeping bags to the US vary between 10 percent and 40 percent, while the average duty for the item is 12 percent, according to exporters.

The sleeping bags manufacturing industry in Bangladesh is still new and only two or three companies (foreign) are making the item. Total export income from sleeping bags was $5.3 million in 2010, up by 770 percent from that of 2009. Their exports were $17,000 in 2008.

Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka