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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid