Bangladesh will underline the progresses made in workplace safety in the country’s garment sector since the Rana Plaza collapse in the first EU-Bangladesh joint business council scheduled to be held today.
“We will highlight the improved safety measures as the customers in Europe want to know about the working conditions after the factory inspections by the Accord, Alliance and the government,” said Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, senior secretary to the commerce ministry.
The three agencies -- Accord, Alliance and the National Action Plan -- have completed inspections of 3,800 factories to detect deficiencies in structural, electrical and fire safety.
About 1,600 factories were inspected by the Accord, a platform of 200 European retailers; 700 by the Alliance, another inspection agency of 27 North American retailers; and 1,549 by the government.
During the inspection, 37 factories were fully closed down and 40 partially after structural flaws were found in them.
Besides, Bangladesh signed the International Labour Organisation-brokered Sustainability Compact with the EU in 2013, committing to responsible business behaviour.
As of now, Bangladesh has fulfilled almost all the conditions put in the Compact.
Mamoon said the council meeting is very important as both the public and private sectors of the two sides would be able to discuss their problems and prospects in trade.
Representatives from both the sides will also discuss the barriers that have been hurting bilateral trade.
“The European Union is the most important trading partner for us,” he said.
In fiscal 2014-15, Bangladesh's exports to the EU stood at $17.04 billion, of which 90 percent were garment items, according to data from the commerce ministry.
About 60 percent of Bangladesh's garment exports are destined for the EU, and total exports to the 28-nation bloc would have crossed the $20-billion mark last year had the euro not been devalued.
Bangladesh, as a least-developed country, has been enjoying a zero-duty benefit to the EU since 1971 under the EU's “everything but arms” scheme.
The meeting will be held at the secretariat in Dhaka. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed and EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Pierre Mayaudon will lead their respective sides to the meeting.
Attracting foreign direct investment from the 28 European nations is another target of the meeting, according to the commerce secretary.
Mamoon also said the European entrepreneurs can invest in the special economic zones as the government has already developed nearly 40 such zones for both the domestic and foreign investors.
Representatives from Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, FBCCI, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry will attend the meeting.
The 25-member council will include the chiefs of eight EU embassies in Bangladesh and other organisations of the bloc, and will discuss and find solutions to both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade.