Bangladesh and the US have signed the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA). The Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, hopes the agreement will mend the two nations’ relationship damaged by the fatal Savar garment factory collapse in the spring of 2013. The US suspended duty-free trade access to some products from Bangladesh following the tragedy.

Bangladesh overturned their decision to reject a previously proposed US deal after it came under pressure from the US and Europe regarding the working conditions in its garment factories.

Sky News reports that Bangladesh has enacted a series of reforms including easing curbs on labor unions and raising the rock-bottom wages of the country's four million workers in its effort to reclaim trade benefits.

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the US goods imports from Bangladesh totaled $4.9 billion in 2012 with two of the largest import categories being woven and knit apparel.

"This will pave the way for stronger engagement between the parties to resolve some crucial trade issues", including the suspension of duty-free access to Bangladeshi exports in the US market, Bangladesh ambassador Akramul Qader said.

Qader views the agreement as “an opening of a new chapter” in the two nations’ relationships.

Access the full article here.

Through the efforts of an interagency collaboration, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) investigators seized more than 200,000 toy dolls arriving from China due to high levels of a group of banned chemical compounds.

According to CBP.gov, the ten shipments, valued at nearly $500,000, were seized at the ports of Chicago, IL, Dallas, TX, Los Angeles, CA, Norfolk, VA, Memphis TN, Newark, NJ, Portland, OR, and Savannah GA. The toy parts contained high levels of phthalates, a potential safety risk to the public, especially children.

The Import Safety Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC), designed to streamline and enhance federal efforts to address import safety issues, had been tracking these shipments since April 2013, due to the potential threat.  “Using advanced technology to track certain shipments before they reach our shores is helping CPSC better protect America’s consumers,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “CPSC and CBP are working in partnership to detect and detain violative imports.” CTAC’s efforts, in conjunction with the actions of CBP and CPSA, stopped more than 1.1 million unsafe products in the 2012 Fiscal Year alone.

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) Executive Vice President, Ed Desmond states, “[TIA] commends CBP and CPSC for their diligence and hard work at the ports to ensure that products violating strict federal safety laws never reach consumers.”

You can access the full article, including video, images and testing results, here.

This interagency collaboration is a great example of the One US Government at the Border initiative.  To hear more about the One US Government at the Border initiative, join Integration Point & CBP for a free, educational webcast on December 11, 2013.  More information and registration for the webcast can be accessed here.

Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine is still bustling with about 300,000 protesters, defying the country’s ban on protests on the capital city’s central square. The second week of daily protests come after Ukraine made the sudden decision to focus on boosting its ties with Russia, vetoing a potentially historic trade deal with the European Union (EU). The deal was set to be signed on November 29, 2013.

slide_327590_3170628_freeProtesters throw stones as they clash with police outside the presidential administration building in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. AP Photo/Sergei Grits

The Ukrainian government spent several years preparing for the landmark trade deal and included firm promises from Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, that it would be signed. The deal would have boosted Ukraine’s economy by more than 6 percent, saving businesses 500 million euros a year in import duties.

The decision follows vast pressure from Russia, including an attempt to block the EU trade deal by banning some Ukrainian imports and threatening more trade sanctions.

According to The Huffington Post, “The government argues the Ukrainian economy would not survive a trade war with Russia, after the Kremlin imposed restrictions on Ukrainian exports, warning Kiev of a possible trade blockade if it goes ahead with the EU deal.” This was the main, amongst many, reasons the government gave for the sudden reversal of its decision.

Amid the masked crowds, armed with rocks and other projectiles, come demands for the government’s resignation over the decision which has angered many of the city’s citizens. Protesters have swept away metal barriers, occupied government buildings and left EU and Ukrainian flags hanging from the square’s Christmas tree. According to opinion surveys in the country, 45 percent of Ukrainians support closer integration with the EU.

"Our plan is clear: It's not a demonstration, it's not a reaction. It's a revolution," said Yuriy Lutsenko, a former interior minister who is now an opposition leader.

For more on Ukraine’s decision and the ongoing protests, view the full article here