From businessmen to workers’ platforms, everyone has termed ‘illogical’ the US decision to revoke Bangladesh’s preferential trading status despite various government efforts to improve factory working conditions and labour rights.
President Barack Obama suspended Bangladesh from a programme that
provides tax breaks to developing countries in what is seen as a powerful
warning shot to it about the need to improve safety conditions for garment
The decision, however, will have little impact on multi-billion
dollar ready-made garment export, they say.
The government has said the
move was ‘unfortunate’ and hoped Washington would consider reviving the facility
It came in the wake of last November’s fire at Tazreen Fashions
Limited killing over 110 workers and April’s collapse of multi-storied Rana
Plaza where over 1,100 people mostly RMG workers died.
and workers’ fronts say they find no ‘clear and logical’ reason behind the
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA)
President Atiqul Islam, shocked at the decision, said, “I can see no logical
reason for this. We are not clear why it took such a decision.”
we need to improve working conditions. We did that. The government has amended
Labour Act. We are working on improving the workers’ lifestyle. We have informed
them (US) about it through various media,” the top apparel body chief told
Knitwear units’ association BKMEA Vice President Mohammad
Hatem said the decision was ‘unfair’.
“What they are saying about working
conditions and labour standard is not right. We are working with the ILO
(International Labour Organisation) to improve things,” he told
RMG workers’ bodies say the US decision will be of no help
for workers although it aimed at pressing the government into implementing their
They fear similar steps by the European Union would badly damage
Bangladesh’s garment sector and hurt the industry’s 3.6 million workers mostly
Bangladesh Textile Garment Workers Federation President Mahbubur
Rahman Ismail told bdnews24.com: “They [US] say this was done for the sake of
the workers. But this will not help them.”
He said the US could have
pressured Bangladesh to ensure compliance in garment factories, international
standard salary and the right to form trade unions instead.
Mishu, chief of a RMG workers’ platform, found the decision to be against the
interest of Bangladesh.
“It cannot be supported in any way,” he
Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation chief Babul
Akhter believes the US should have considered Bangladesh’s various efforts
before taking the decision.
The government is upset with the
‘unfortunate’ move but hopes Washington would soon bring it back.
statement from the Foreign Ministry on Friday said Bangladesh is absolutely
respectful of a trading partner’s choice of decisions and feared the “harsh
measure” may create fresh obstacles in a flourishing bilateral
Bangladesh hoped the US would soon bring back the GSP status, a
benefit a least developed country is supposed to receive in the developed
countries as per the provisions of the World Trade Organization.
won’t affect export’
The Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), however, believes
the GSP suspension will not affect exports.
Its Vice-Chairman Subhashish
Basu told bdnews24.com Bangladesh’s apparels do not get GSP facility in the US
market. The decision will not negatively impact the overall export scenario as
86 percent of the exports to the US consist of garments, he said.
is the single largest importer of Bangladesh's goods. According to the EPB, the
total exports during 2011-12 fiscal were $24 billion. Exports to the US
accounted for about 21 percent of the total, around $5.1 billion, of which
apparel export was worth $4.53 billion.
According to the US Trade
Representative, Bangladeshi businessmen earned $34.7 million by exporting
tobacco, sports equipment, porcelain china and plastic products to the US and
duties waived were to the tune of $2 million.
Now, with the GSP status
temporarily gone, businessmen will have to pay export duties, resulting in a
decline in profits.
Basu said export volume would not decrease as items
which enjoyed the facility were capable of competing in the global
BGMEA President Islam believes the move will not tarnish
Bangladesh’s image in the global arena.
“We might face pressure in
elsewhere but nothing like waning export would occur,” he said.
Vice-President Hatem also feels the same way. He said the US had only suspended
the facility but not slapped an embargo on export.
The Federation of
Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) chief Kazi Akram Uddin
Ahmed said RMG exports to US are a negligible portion of the total. “So the GSP
suspension will not affect our garment exports directly,” he said.
Analysts say the US move does not directly affect
Bangladesh’s $20 billion industry, second largest after China’s.
it will be a major concern if the move influences European Union in taking a
FBCCI President Ahmed is worried that the US move might
impact the EU and Canadian markets that account for a major share of
Bangladesh’s RMG goods.
The 27-nation block is Bangladesh’s biggest
importer. The EU has repeatedly threatened to revoke GSP facility unless
Bangladesh improved its working conditions.
The EU buys more than $12
billion in Bangladeshi garments annually, roughly three-fifths of the country’s
AKM Zahirul Kaiyum Khan, member of a platform of plastic
goods manufacturers and exporters, said the US did not import plastic-made goods
in large quantities.
“We’ll run into trouble if other exporters go the
same way,” he said.
Workers’ platforms fear the interests of nearly 3.6
million workers, mostly women, of the RMG sector will be hurt if other countries
follow the US footstep.
“Our whole industry will be endangered if Europe
also adopts similar policy. In that case, nearly 10 million people, directly or
indirectly involved with this trade, will be harmed,” Garments Workers’ Unity
Forum chief Mishu said.