Garment owners yesterday demanded duty waiver for apparel exports to the US markets, which they said would improve labour standards and working conditions in Bangladesh.
“If they allow duty-free access for Bangladesh garments, we can invest the money saved from duty in worker welfare,” said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Garment exporters paid $750 million in duty on exports to the US in 2012.
The demand came at a meeting at the BGMEA office with US Ambassador Dan W Mozena on the generalised system of preferences for Bangladesh, which the United States suspended on June 27 citing inadequate progress in labour standards.
Islam, the chief of the garment trade body, also demanded a unified code of conduct for building safety, and workplace and labour standards to regain GSP privileges.
The suspension of GSP privileges sent out a negative signal all over the world, he said.
The government should help develop the largest foreign currency earning sector with low interest bank loans, he said.
Mozena said their entire focus was on following up on the GSP action plan for reinstatement of Bangladesh's GSP.
“We all should work together to avoid disasters like Rana Plaza and Tazreen fire again in Bangladesh,” said Mozena adding that Bangladesh could be the best brand for international buyers.
North American retailers including Wal-Mart and GAP have formed an alliance of their own for factory inspection in Bangladesh.
Earlier, more than 70 retailers, mostly European, signed a legally binding agreement in May to finance upgrades in factory standards in the garment sector.
“I have also met with the secretaries of foreign, commerce and labour ministries to discuss how Bangladesh could regain GSP privileges,” Mozena said.
The envoy asked the BGMEA to be well-prepared before appearing for the hearing due in December on the reinstatement of trade preferences for Bangladesh products in the US market.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque recently said the US would review the reinstatement of GSP facility for Bangladesh in December.