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BKMEA Urges Diplomacy Over US Trade Sanctions Threat Amid Labor Rights Debate

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In a recent roundtable discussion at the National Press Club in Dhaka, Mohammad Hatem, the executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), criticized the United States for considering trade sanctions on Bangladesh regarding labor rights issues.

Hatem argued that any concerns should be addressed diplomatically rather than through punitive economic measures. He highlighted Bangladesh’s commitment to international labor standards, emphasizing the nation’s endorsement of all eight core fundamental conventions on workers’ rights, in contrast to the limited endorsements by influential nations like the US, China, India, and Vietnam.

Hatem questioned the moral standing of the US in discussing labor rights, pointing out the differing levels of commitment between Bangladesh and the mentioned nations. He pledged the support of entrepreneurs to the government in dealing with any potential political actions but stressed that there is no justification for trade sanctions.

The president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Faruque Hassan, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing Bangladesh’s adherence to labor laws and expressing concern over the impact of potential sanctions on the industry.

Faruque Hassan addressed a letter from eight US Congress members urging apparel and footwear importers to raise clothing prices due to the recent 56% increase in wages in Bangladesh. He asserted that adjustments to product prices should be the responsibility of buyers. Despite concerns about the global economic situation and inflation, Hassan expressed confidence in maintaining positive export growth and emphasized the industry’s commitment to a $100 billion export target.

Engineer Md Shafiqur Rahman, president of the Institution of Textile Engineers and Technologists, highlighted the significant progress in the apparel industry since the Rana Plaza collapse, emphasizing improved labor rights and the industry’s positive trajectory.

The roundtable discussion was presided over by Shyamal Dutta, general secretary of the National Press Club, and featured insights from various industry leaders, including Dhaka University professors, business executives, and the general secretary of the Bangladesh National Garments Sramik-Karmachari League, Ruksana Akhter.

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China’s economy grew less than expected in second quarter: official data

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China’s economy grew 4.7 percent year-on-year in the second quarter of 2024, official data showed Monday, less than analysts had expected.

“By quarter, the GDP for the first quarter increased by 5.3 percent year on year and for the second quarter 4.7 percent,” Beijing’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement.

The figures were much lower than the 5.1 percent predicted by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Retail sales — a key gauge of consumption — also slowed to just two percent in June, the NBS said, down from 3.7 percent in May.

The world’s second-largest economy is grappling with a real estate debt crisis, weakening consumption, an ageing population and trade tensions with Western rivals.

Top officials are meeting in Beijing on Monday for a key plenum, with all eyes on how they might kickstart lacklustre growth.

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Concerns Mount Over Revenue Loss as South Asia’s Largest Land Port Curtails Operations

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Bangladeshi officials are grappling with fears of revenue loss as the largest land port in South Asia, situated along the India-Bangladesh border, has ceased operations for 10 hours each day since July 11.

The Petrapole Land Port in India, crucial for trade between the two nations, has been shutting down from 6 PM to 8 AM daily, without providing any explanation for the closure, according to officials from the Benapole Land Authority in Bangladesh. This unexpected halt has left Bangladeshi authorities and traders in a state of uncertainty, as there is no indication of when the operations might resume to normalcy.

Industry insiders warn that this disruption could lead to a significant revenue shortfall at Benapole port due to decreased imports, adversely affecting Bangladeshi importers with delayed product deliveries.

Rezaul Karim, Director of Traffic at Benapole Land Port Authority, emphasized that while Benapole has been maintaining 24-hour operations, Petrapole’s recent restrictions are hindering cargo truck movements after evening.

“We have inquired with the Petrapole port authority about the reasons for halting trade services after evening. They responded that the matter is under discussion with relevant authorities,” Karim said.

Sultan Mahmud Bipul, Secretary of Benapole C&F Agent Association International Checkpost Affairs, highlighted the fiscal implications of this disruption. “Benapole port has set a revenue target of Tk6,705 crore from imported goods for the fiscal year 2024-25. If the 24-hour import facility remains discontinued, it will severely impact our revenue targets,” he noted.

Ziaur Rahman, General Secretary of Benapole Landport Importers and Exporters Association, pointed out the severe impact on trade, particularly with perishable goods. “Traders dealing with perishable food products are incurring the biggest losses due to this halt. The inability of goods trucks to enter after evening will widen the trade deficit,” Rahman remarked.

As the situation unfolds, the Benapole Land Port Authority and associated trade bodies continue to seek clarity and resolution from their Indian counterparts to mitigate the economic repercussions of this operational disruption.

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DCCI Urge Streamlined Tax Mechanisms for Enhanced Compliance, Reduced Costs

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The Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has called on the government to simplify tax procedures to foster better comprehension, ease compliance, and minimize time, effort, and expenses.

“Corporate tax calculations should adhere to accounting standards, and compliant businesses should occasionally receive incentives,” stated Ashraf Ahmed, DCCI President, during a workshop on “Customs, VAT, and Income Tax Management” held at the DCCI office in the capital, according to a press release issued today.

The workshop was organized by DCCI to inform professionals from its member organizations about recent amendments in relevant laws as outlined in the 2024-25 budget.

Prominent Speakers and Insights
The event featured key presentations by Md Zakir Hossain, Commissioner of Customs, Excise, and VAT Commissionerate, Dhaka East; Snehasish Barua, FCA, Adviser to the DCCI Standing Committee on Customs, VAT, and NBR-related issues; and MBM Lutful Hadi, FCA, Vice-president of ICAB.

Ashraf Ahmed emphasized that automation would diminish discretionary measures and curb leakages. He asserted that compliant businesses encounter fewer hassles, adding that a transparent and accountable revenue system would expand the tax base while reducing complications.

Ahmed further highlighted the positive aspects of the VAT Act, Income Tax Act, and Customs Act, urging their practical application.

VAT Act Amendments and Revenue Goals
Md Zakir Hossain clarified that no major changes were introduced in the new VAT Act, but two procedural adjustments were made for the NBR. He acknowledged that to meet increased revenue collection targets, pressure on all taxpayers, including VAT-paying companies, would rise slightly. He encouraged businesses to familiarize themselves with the VAT Act to benefit from existing rebate facilities.

Snehasish Barua noted that the NBR’s revenue collection target for the current fiscal year is Tk4.8 lakh crore, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. He advocated for reducing import duties to stimulate industrialization and economic growth, stressing the need for a sustainable revenue system in light of the country’s economic conditions.

MBM Lutful Hadi urged the government to properly implement the new Customs Act, designed to lower business costs. He underscored the importance of ensuring a sustainable revenue framework.

Workshop Participation and Key Takeaways
Approximately 90 representatives from DCCI member organizations attended the workshop, gaining a clear understanding of the new rules and procedures to aid their respective entities in lawful calculations.

DCCI Vice-president Md. Junaed Ibna Ali, Directors Kamrul Hasan Tuhin, and M. Mosharraf Hossain were also present during the event.

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