GOING by what the outgoing head of the EU delegation William Hanna has stated, the duty free access Bangladesh gets to the EU market has proved to be a tremendous opportunity for exports. Indeed, EU remains the country's single largest export market, with exports going up by a significant 57 per cent over the last three and a half years. It speaks volumes for the quality of our products and the RMG sector as a whole. That said, for the EU, the compliance factors linked to assuring international labour standards in the garments sector remain a crucial area that requires attention.
The Sustainability Compact signed in July last year by all major stakeholders set forth certain conditions to be met. And to that effect Bangladesh has made serious progress. One should not forget that making all factories safe is a long term affair, but there remains contention on how far workers' rights to associate freely and bargain collectively has made progress on RMG factory floors. The government has been recruiting factory inspectors and work in making buildings safer is progressing. The sedate pace at which the new labour law is being implemented needs to be expedited. This and other issues need to be fast tracked if Bangladesh is to meet the conditions set forth in the Compact that is coming up for review this year. As this paper has reiterated a number of times, we need to do these things for our sake and not due to external pressure to avert any misconceptions about Bangladesh being an unsafe place to do business in.