News / Asia

Bangladesh Criticizes US Trade Privilege Suspension

Garment workers from textile company Envoy Group demonstrate climbing a makeshift ladder, which serves as a fire exit to the building, during a protest in Dhaka, June 10, 2013.
Garment workers from textile company Envoy Group demonstrate climbing a makeshift ladder, which serves as a fire exit to the building, during a protest in Dhaka, June 10, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
Bangladesh has called a decision by the United States to suspend the country’s trade privileges, due to concerns about dangerous working conditions and labor rights, a harsh measure. The U.S. move comes after global attention turned to hazardous working conditions in Bangladesh’s thriving garment industry in the wake of the country’s worst industrial disaster.
    
Sanctions

Trade experts said the U.S. move to suspend Bangladesh’s duty free trade privileges sends a strong signal to the country that they have to do things differently. The change followed a year-long review of labor conditions in Bangladesh.   

Dhaka had fought to prevent the suspension, which comes after two major disasters in its thriving garment sector. Last November, a fire raged through a garment factory killing more than 100 people. In April, more than 1,100 people were buried under the rubble of a nine-story building.
 
Saftey concerns

The U.S. said these accidents highlight the serious shortcomings in worker rights and workplace safety standards in Bangladesh.

Dhaka’s foreign ministry said the “harsh” measure by Washington may bring new obstacles to an otherwise flourishing bilateral trade relationship.

Economist Mamun Rashid in Dhaka said the U.S. move will pressure the government to act faster to address global concerns on these issues. He said otherwise, Bangladesh’s reputation for business could be seriously damaged.

“Government has to accept the reality. Government possibly needs to do a review of the existing labor law accommodating more issues with regard to establishment of labor rights. The move has started, but this has yet to get momentum. We do not have much leeway or space, so we got to take it forward, said Rashid.
 
Bangladesh is being urged to ensure that its garment industry does not operate from shoddy buildings that are structurally unsound and are fire hazards. In recent months, the government has taken steps to tighten inspection of buildings and relocate those that are not safe.

Worker rights

Those fighting for workers rights also hope that the U.S. move will provide the trigger to address issues such as harassment of labor activists. Observers said this is meant to discourage formation of labor unions. Labor activist Kalpona Akter with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity said the legal right to form unions does not work on the ground.
 
“The government already started feeling the heat. Now it is a good opportunity for them to improve the condition[s]. One of them [is] to make these factories safe and second to let workers free to form unions," Akter explained. "The union right to organize, it is always there, but that is on board, but workers are not free to exercise.”  
 
Economic impact

The trade sanctions by Washington will not have much direct economic impact because the apparel sector - the country’s main export industry - does not have duty-free status in the U.S.
 
The deeper worry is whether such a move could influence other countries, particularly the European Union, to take similar steps. The EU, which does extend duty-free privileges to garments from Bangladesh, buys apparel worth $15 billion from the country.

Bangladesh’s foreign ministry has expressed hope that the U.S. will soon restore the country’s trade preferences and has urged Western buyers to continue their business with their “long trusted partners in the country.”

The garment industry employs nearly four million workers and is the main driver of Bangladesh’s economy. However, there are fears that the country’s failure to address global concerns on workers issues could drive buyers to other Asian countries such as Cambodia and Indonesia.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid