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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs