Mozena: No blood-stained shirts, please
US Ambassador Dan W Mozena yesterday warned Bangladesh of the far-reaching impact of factory tragedies on the nation's trade relations with American retailers and consumers.
“America will not buy shirts stained with the blood of Bangladeshi workers,” Mozena quoted a US congressman as saying at a meeting with him.
“The message was clear and powerful,” Mozena said just a day before the GSP benefits for exports, except for garments, to the US markets comes to an end.
The Obama administration suspended the trade privileges for Bangladesh in June this year, after a six-year review exposed “serious shortcomings” in safety and labour standards.
The decision bring tariffs back on some of Bangladesh's exports to US markets under the scheme known as the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).
On the horrific disasters of Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse, the ambassador said there simply cannot be any more such horrid disasters.
Mozena spoke at the inauguration of “Help Desk and US Product and Services Information Centre” at Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He said time has come to transform the apparel sector of Bangladesh.
“All of us … owners, workers, government, buyers, international organisations, friends and partners of Bangladesh … must work together to ensure that the horrors of Tazreen Fashions and Rana Plaza are never repeated.” “Indeed, working together, we can transform Bangladesh's apparel sector.”
The US envoy said greed, corruption and ignorance were the reasons behind the two disasters that snuffed out the lives of 1,243 innocent Bangladeshi women and men who had sought nothing more than to provide a decent living for themselves and their families.
“But from the ashes and crumbled concrete of these disasters arises a great hope … a hope that these tragedies will mark an end to disasters in Bangladesh's apparel sector.”
He believed these disasters will in fact bring about fundamental transformation of Bangladesh's apparel sector.
Mozena said Bangladesh and its two biggest apparel markets—the US and the EU—have adopted a sustainability compact, which identifies critical steps for addressing the issues of labour rights, fire safety and factory structural soundness.
He said these steps include development of an effective inspection regimen to ensure compliance on these issues, creation of a publicly accessible database that posts inspection findings and required remedial actions, labour law reform to improve the rights of workers, increased registration of independent trade unions, and extension of national labour law to the export processing zones, including the prohibition on blacklisting workers.
When US President Obama announced his decision to suspend GSP, he provided an action plan, a road map for reinstating these privileges, Mozena said.
“The GSP Action Plan, much like the sustainability compact, charts a course of concrete actions to help Bangladesh prevent any future disastrous fires and building collapses.”