News / Asia

Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka Weave a New Future in Garments

FILE - Bangladeshi garment worker Asma, who worked on the 4th floor of Rana Plaza garment factory that collapsed exactly a year ago, works at a factory meant to rehabilitate survivors of the accident, the worst in the history of the garment industry, in S
FILE - Bangladeshi garment worker Asma, who worked on the 4th floor of Rana Plaza garment factory that collapsed exactly a year ago, works at a factory meant to rehabilitate survivors of the accident, the worst in the history of the garment industry, in S

The garment and textile industry has been very important to the fabric of the national economies in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Amid major industry changes in recent years, each nation has adapted to shifting market conditions and internal pressures for improved labor conditions and products.

Sanchita Saxena, Executive Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, is author of the book Made in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, which examines the garment industry changes in these three nations over the past decade. In excerpts from her conversation with VOA’s Jim Stevenson, the changes followed the end of a quota arrangement that had been in place for more than 30 years.

Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka Weave a New Future in Garments
Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka Weave a New Future in Garmentsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

SAXENA:  There was a lot of anxiety in Asia and other parts of the world amongst garment exporting countries that the MSA quotas, the Multi-Fiber Arrangement export quotas, were about to expire in 2005. So at that time I started working on a lot of programming around how to address these issues. There was a lot of pessimism that all these countries would drastically lose market share and what was going to happen after that. It wasn’t until about five years ago that the idea for the book really came about. It seemed like an interesting question of how certain countries seemed to have survived. There was a big shift in terms of thinking about issues like labor rights. There was a lot of changes placing in these countries and there was a lot more dialogue.

STEVENSON:  Let’s go back to that Multi-Fiber Arrangement and what it meant to these countries and the textile industry there. How did it help them, how did it hurt them and what did the expiration of this mean to them?

SAXENA:  The idea was that they were going to just flood the market. So the quotas were there to keep them in check. What happened is, in countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka – all the three countries that I look at in the book – they created sort of haphazard growth in some sense of the sector. Because the quotas were in place, they guaranteed market share. There was very little desire to actually look at issues of labor rights or how to actually improve products. They just did the minimum needed to continue their share of the market. As suppliers started going to these countries and as they realized there was abundant cheap labor, that actually added a lot of pressure to the system. Now that is actually what we see, kind of the ramifications of the MFA quotas now, even though they are expired. A lot of the disasters that we see in Bangladesh are due to this haphazard growth and this lack of planning of the sector.

STEVENSON:  Your book goes into the emergence of coalitions and how the industry developed beyond 2005 and the ending of this agreement. Tell us about these coalitions and how they came about.

SAXENA:  The book really tries to look at the industry beyond the headlines. I actually argue that in Bangladesh, which is always in the news for very negative aspects of the sector, actually has been taking a lead and has been successful in creating these coalitions, coalitions of the various groups and stakeholders who are part of the industry. At one time it used to be very close relationships between the private sector and the government. Now the role of labor has really emerged as an important player in the coalition. There have been various channels to use to represent the role of labor. Also the role of buyers has really changed. They at one time used to come and only deal with expressing issues. Now they are actually in many cases advocating for improved labor rights. We see this in varying degrees in the three countries that I look at. I argue that Bangladesh has actually progressed further than the other two countries in terms of creating these stronger coalitions.

STEVENSON:  Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka – do the nations interact as far as working on trade and textile industry or have they come up individually, on their own?

SAXENA:  I think it is really more individually. Each country over the years [has] developed their own niche. Bangladesh focuses really on basic T-shirts and really basic goods. Sri Lanka is much more of a higher end player. Their products would have more intricate beading and lace and other kinds of things that would require more detail. There is a clear difference in the types of products they would produce. They kind of specialized in some sense over the years.


Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs