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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid