Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Battle of nerves around TIFA in Bangladesh

A diplomatic battle of nerves is emerging around the proposed Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) which the USA is pushing hard to get signed by the Bangladesh Government. The Communist Party of Bangladesh and Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Bangladesh have already protested the move saying the US has ill motive of establishing complete control over Bangladesh.

Local media are also positioning themselves around the emerging debate. The Daily Star completely blacked-out CPB and RWPB’s media statement on TIFA, while left-leaning New Age produced four pieces today, which include: a front-page article, CPB’s statement, an editorial, and an analysis by Oxfam of Great Britain, the latter was also sent to Commerce Minister Faruk Khan as a part of a letter. The editorial suggested having a debate on the draft TIFA agreement in the parliament.

The revised TIFA draft of 2007 is not available in the public domain, however, a draft in 2005, available here , mentions of the effectiveness of a Bilateral Investment Treaty, signed between Bangladesh and the USA on 12th March 1986 and enforced on 25th July 1989.

A careful look into the BIT document shows both parties enjoy right to maintain limited exceptions in some sectors or matters. Page 16 of this document shows Bangladesh would provide exceptions to a number of items and these include, among others: arms and ammunition and allied defense equipment, atomic energy, mechanized forest extraction, and communication satellite.

Those opposing the draft TIFA agreement should first research which sectoral exception so far had been allowed by the Bangladesh Government under the provisions of BIT.

It would be interesting to see how the Bangladesh Government handles TIFA debate as the US appears to be flexing its muscle to get it signed as soon as possible. Two earlier attempts failed because of strong opposition by the left-wing political parties.

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