Millennium Post

Bangladesh boils over at US trade benefit suspension

Bangladesh has criticised Washington’s decision to suspend trade privileges over concerns about dangerous working conditions and labour rights.

This decision comes after a year-long review of labour practices and workplace safety in Bangladesh.

The foreign ministry in Dhaka described the move as harsh, saying the government had taken clear measures to improve safety at clothing factories.

In April, 1,127 people died when when a factory building collapsed near Dhaka. The eight-storey Rana Plaza building came crashing down on 24 April, a day after cracks had been spotted in the building.

It was the deadliest in a series of accidents that have focused global attention on safety standards in Bangladesh’s export garment industry, which is the second biggest in the world after China’s. The disaster sparked a series of angry protests by workers in the garment industry and heightened international concern. Twelve people have so far been arrested, including the building’s owner.

But unions and experts say hundreds of factories are still operating in shoddy buildings, raising fears that another tragedy could occur at any time.

The US order suspends Bangladesh’s duty-free trade privileges under the terms of a trade programme called the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), designed to promote economic growth in developing countries.

‘It cannot be more shocking for the factory workers of Bangladesh that the decision to suspend GSP comes at a time when the government of Bangladesh has taken concrete and visible measures to improve factory safety and protect workers’ rights,’ a Bangladesh foreign ministry statement said.
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