Workplace safety and worker rights issues would be high on the agenda for the 3rd meeting of Bangladesh-United States Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement to be held on May 17 in Dhaka, commerce ministry officials said.
According to senior officials of the commerce ministry, Bangladesh would brief the US authorities about the progresses it has made in line with the action plan provided by the United States Trade Representative in 2013 for the restoration of the generalised system of preferences.
The US has suspended Bangladesh’s GSP facility in its market since June 2013.
In the presentation, Bangladesh would make an appeal for restoring the GSP benefits, the officials said.
They said labour rights issues would get priority in the TICFA meeting as the review meeting of Sustainability Compact which includes the European Union, the Bangladesh government, the US government and the International Labour Organisation would be held at the same time in Dhaka to assess the progresses of labour issues since the Rana Plaza building collapse.
Following the Rana Plaza incident, that killed more than 1,100 people, mostly readymade garment workers, Bangladesh was suspended from GSP eligibility in the US market in June 2013 based on worker rights concerns and the US provided 16-points action plan for restoring the trade facility.
At the same time, the EU, the US, Canada and Bangladesh adopted the Sustainability Compact and the initiative provided separate action plan for Bangladesh to improve its worker safety and rights.
The US was the single largest destination for Bangladeshi export products mainly readymade garments.
In 2016, Bangladesh’s export earnings from the US were $5.49 billion including $5.30 billion from RMG products.
Recently, the EU has threatened Bangladesh of GSP suspension if the country fails to address the worker rights issues as per the recommendation of the ILO.
In March, the US in its Trade Policy Agenda said that Bangladesh needed more progress in respect of labour rights for the restoration of GSP.
‘Although Bangladesh has made some progress on these issues, especially with respect to workplace safety, more progress is necessary before GSP benefits can be restored, particularly with respect to rights of association, union registration, and the protection of labour leaders from violent reprisals,’ the US Trade Policy Agenda said.
It also said that the USTR would continue its efforts to promote stronger respect for workers’ rights in Bangladesh in 2017.
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