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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora