Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed yesterday criticised Western nations for what he said was interference in the government's efforts to improve factory conditions in the apparel industry.
“We are taking decisions on our own to improve conditions in our garments industry. But different countries in the West are imposing various conditions on us,” he said in parliament.
Bangladesh is facing hostility from other countries as it has become the second largest apparel exporter, he said.
“They are interfering and creating barriers to our exports. Despite barriers, the Sheikh Hasina government will go forward with its own decisions and our exports must increase in the coming years.”
Inspectors hired by these countries are visiting factory buildings here for inspection and suggesting that the structures be reconstructed within seven days, citing safety concerns, he said.
“But it's not possible to reconstruct a building overnight. We have taken a decision to reconstruct those buildings following building codes, which might take a month or year.”
In response to queries made by lawmakers, the minister said Bangladesh's exports to the US did not fall despite suspension of trade privileges in 2013.
“Rather, Bangladesh's exports rose.”
Meanwhile, speaking at the 24th session of the Social Compliance Forum for the RMG sector at the ministry in Dhaka yesterday, Ahmed said the government is working to meet all 16 conditions stipulated by the US within March to regain the trade privilege.
The government will appoint 200 factory inspectors, complete the worker database and update labour laws by March in an effort to win back the trade privileges suspended by the US last year, he added.
The government has also set up a project worth Tk 800 crore on 500 acres to build fully compliant factories in Munshiganj, in collaboration with the Chinese government, he said. Bangladesh is seeing growth in apparel exports despite an unfriendly business environment in the past eight months, Ahmed said.