Commerce minister Tofail Ahmed on Thursday said the government would find out a ‘formula’ to introduce trade unions in the country’s export processing zones against the backdrop repeated urges from the European Union countries.
He said discussions with the stakeholders, including the parliamentary standing committee of the European Union, would be held to find a way out soon although the government had committed not to allow any trade unions in the EPZs.
The government always wants good relations with the EU, he told reporters after a meeting with a visiting delegation from Germany at his secretariat office.
The German delegation led by vice-president Michael Sommer of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the oldest political foundation in Germany, demanded that the trade unions in the EPZs would comply with the principles of international labour organisation.
German ambassador in Dhaka Thomas Prinz was present during the meeting.
In 2014, Bangladesh introduced workers’ welfare association aiming at introducing ‘limited’ trade unionism in the EPZs, but the EU countries urged the government to introduce same standard of labour laws for factories in EPZ and outside the zones.
On March 26, an EU parliamentary delegation called for amending the Bangladesh Labour Act to ensure freedom of association and collective bargaining in the EPZs.
Earlier, the EU threatened to review the generalised system of preference for the Bangladesh export products in its market.
The country’s GSP facility might remain suspended if the EU starts review of the facility under which many Bangladeshi products enjoy duty concession while entering into the EU market.
Tofail said the government does not want any problems on trade with the EU.
He said they would give empahasis on uninterrupted business between Bangladesh and the EU countries during the meeting with the parliamentary standing committee of the EU.
The country’s 55 per cent outbound shipments worth US $34.24 billion in 2015-16 went to EU.
Earlier, the United States suspended the duty preferences for Bangladeshi export products in June 2013 on charge of poor working condition and worker rights.
Suspension of GSP by the US did not harm export of Bangladesh to US market, but the move tainted the country’s image outside.
If the EU suspends GSP facility for Bangladesh, the country would be affected adversely, Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Mustafizur Rahman said.
Citing UNCTAD report, Mustafiz said that Bangladesh’s export might fall by 5.5 to 7.5 per cent as a result of the loss of the preference.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Apparel