The Bangladesh apparel industry is calling for duty-free access to the US for its ready made garments manufactured from cotton imported from America.

In a letter to the US Ambassador to Bangladesh last week, Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) is understood to have said that offering duty-free access would create a "win-win" situation for bilateral trade between the countries. A similar letter was sent to the Brazilian government via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At present, Bangladeshi RMG products do not have duty-free access to the US and Mexico, despite the two countries enjoying duty-free access for the cotton they export to Bangladesh. Moreover, the US suspended Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facilities for Bangladesh in 2013.

"Bangladesh has long been importing cotton from the US to make apparel for export… We firmly believe that US exports of cotton will grow significantly if apparel products made of the US cotton receive favourable treatment in terms of tariff in accessing the US market," the BGMEA president said in the letter seen by the Dhaka Tribune.

Bangladesh is the second largest importer of cotton in the world; importing 6.1m bales last year. According to the Dhaka Tribune, there are 430 textile mills in Bangladesh with a spindle capacity of 11.50m. Meanwhile, the US is the single largest export destination for Bangladeshi products, particularly apparel.

The BGMEA says Brazil also has high potential for importing Bangladeshi apparel products, but its import duty is high, ranging from 30% to 35%. It calls on the Brazilian government to consider providing duty-free access for Bangladeshi apparel products made from Brazilian cotton exported to Bangladesh.

Such an arrangement, the BGMEA says, would prove profitable for both Bangladesh and Brazil in terms of trade.

According to the Dhaka Tribune, in the 2015/16 fiscal year, exports to the US saw 6.36% growth to US$5.62bn, while exports to Brazil reached $120m.