Garment makers shocked
Garment makers yesterday said they were disappointed with the US decision of suspending the GSP for Bangladesh as millions of garment workers would be affected.
Apparel sector's apex trade body Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) in a statement also said the country's banking, shipping and transport sectors would also be badly affected as these were directly linked with the garment industry.
“So, it is our expectation that the US government will reconsider its decision about Bangladesh as a least developed country,” BGMEA President Atiqul Islam told journalists at the trade body's office in Dhaka.
“I will also urge that the US government would take initiatives to provide a commercially meaningful entry of goods originated from the least developed countries as per the declaration in the WTO summit in 2005,” Islam added.
He said although Bangladesh's garment sector enjoyed duty-benefit to the US market, still the sector might be indirectly affected as the country's image would face crisis for the US move.
Bangladeshi garment exporters have to pay 15.3 percent duty to the US market, the country's single largest export destination. In 2012 Bangladesh paid $746 million to the US customs for exporting nearly $5 billion worth of garment products to that country.
Islam also said they were working with the government for adopting the ILO's widely recommended Better Work Programme to improve the working condition in garment sector.
He added the BGMEA would start introducing the Better Work Programme in the garment sector as soon as the government amended the labour law in parliament.
The cabinet has already agreed in principle to amend the labour law of 2006.
Bangladesh could rarely enjoy the benefits from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in the US as the package does not include the garment sector. Currently, Bangladesh's 97 percent products go to the US market without any duty, but garment items are not included in those 97 percent.
Islam said the BGMEA had already held meetings with the envoys of the EU, the US and Canada to inform them the sector's latest activities and sought cooperation from them to keep the country's garment business smoothly running.
After the Rana Plaza disaster, the government, BGMEA and ILO signed a joint declaration on May 4 to ensure building safety and electrical safety in the garment sector, he added.
The BGMEA was waiting to join in the international retailers' initiative of Building and Fire Safety Accord to ensure safety, risk-free and more compliant garment factories, Islam noted.
He welcomed the government's move for formation of a new wage board to fix the minimum wage for the garment workers. In 2010, the wage was hiked by 80 percent for the garment workers, he said.
The BGMEA boss added child labour in garment sector was uprooted in collaboration with the ILO and the US Embassy in Dhaka in 1995. This time Bangladesh would also be able to improve the labour rights and working condition in the garment sector to retain the GSP facility to the US market, he said.
The US government suspended the GSP on June 27 for poor labour rights and working conditions in the factories.
Bangladesh met the USTR (United States Trade Representative), the chief trade negotiator for the US president, in Washington on March 28 after the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisation) together with some senators appealed for GSP cancellation to Bangladesh after the deadliest fire at Ashulia-based Tazreen Fashions, where 112 workers died last November.
Later, the Rana Plaza collapse at Savar where 1,132 workers died and hundred others suffered severe injuries on April 24 just intensified the claim of AFL-CIO's GSP cancellation.