Dhaka will pursue Washington intensely at both bilateral and multilateral forums to get duty-free market access for its products after the US senate last month approved duty-free market access for Nepali apparel items. The US House of Representatives on December 11 passed a bill allowing Nepali RMG duty-free access to the US market until 2025. The bill will come into effect after president Barak Obama signs it, a top commerce ministry official said. ‘We will intensify our efforts to get access to the US market. I am hopeful of something positive from the US administration to meet the long time demand of Bangladesh for duty-free facility,’ Monoj Kumar Roy, additional secretary, ministry of commerce told New Age. Citing the Nepali duty-free facility on humanitarian grounds, he said Bangladesh garment industries also empowered nearly 40 million women in the sector, which should be taken into consideration by the US government. Although the senior trade officials believe the market access facility for Nepali readymade garment would not affect Bangladesh’s US$ 25 billion RMG industry, Bangladesh Ambassador to Kathmandu asked the government to take up the latest issue seriously. ‘If the RMG sector becomes well structured in this country (Nepal) there is a very real possibility that there could be drainage of skilled manpower from Bangladesh to Nepal to the detriment of our RMG industry. There is also likelihood that the EU, which has been working on strengthening the RMG industry in Nepal for a long time, may also grant the same facility to Nepal’, reads a communication from Mashfee Binte Shams, ambassador of Bangladesh in Kathmandu. Currently, US importers have to pay customs duty ranging from 17 to 20 per cent for importing clothing from the Himalayan nation. The latest bill, which will now require the US President’s seal to transform it into an Act, is expected to give a new lease of life to the Nepali RMG industry, which is on the verge of collapse since the expiry of Multi Fibre Agreement in January 2005. Once the new bill comes into force, Nepali products, such as readymade garments will get zero-tariff access into the US market. The bill was introduced by California Senator Dianne Feinstein. There were over 400 apparel factories in Nepal which exports apparels worth nearly US$ 150 million to the US. Nepali garments are seven to 10 per cent more expensive than those from other South Asian nations due to transport costs. Monoj said bilaterally and multilaterally Bangladesh has been putting pressure on the US to get the duty-free market access for its products to the US market.