Commerce secretary dismisses fears of US trade sanction under labour rights policy

He says Bangladesh is carrying out reforms to the labour sector with assistance from the EU and the US

Published : 4 Dec 2023, 03:22 PM
Updated : 4 Dec 2023, 03:22 PM

Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh has shrugged off fears of the United States hitting Bangladesh with trade sanctions under new global labour rights policy.

Bangladesh engaged with the European Union and the US to carry out reforms to the labour sector, he said on Monday. “This is an ongoing process. They are satisfied with our work.”

The Labour Act was revised three times since 2010 while the wage structure was reformed four times in the same period, Tapan said.

“We are in a good position in terms of ensuring work environment and labour rights in new industrial establishments,” he added.

Recently US President Joe Biden signed a memorandum over the safety of labour rights worldwide. It has provisions of different sanctions, including ban on trade, on countries where labour rights are violated, workers are threatened or attacked.

During the announcement of the memorandum, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned the case of Bangladeshi worker Kalpona Akter in a speech last month.

Salim Reza, commercial counsellor at the Bangladesh Embassy in Washington, sent the commerce ministry an official letter warning that the new policy could make Bangladesh a target for the US.

The commerce secretary spoke to the media after a meeting with businessmen from different levels and the labour secretary at his office.

Tapan said it was a “regular meeting” to discuss the progress of implementing the national action plan to ensure labour rights.

“The circumstances don’t allow a trade ban. The US wants the labour situation to be developed in all countries. It’s not targeted towards Bangladesh. We’ve taken that into account,” he said.

The secretary said officials had discussed the matter with businesspeople and other stakeholders earlier.

“Exporters are aware of the US presidential memorandum. We’re definitely aware. We will do everything necessary to prevent damage to exports,” he said.

He said Bangladesh also had discussions with the US in September. 

“They know about our progress and want more improvements. But our economy is not as developed as the European Union. Our economy is still under pressure. Exports saw a downturn in the past two months,” the secretary said.

Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association who attended the meeting, said: “We are not worried about the US position at all. Because we think the reforms we are carrying out are not conflicting with the US policy. We are working on our action plan.”

Mohammad Hatem, executive president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said: “We’re very well aware of labour rights. I don’t think the US will place any sanction on Bangladesh over labour issues.”