EXTRA Edition: Banglasdesh loses US trade benefits GSP- an overview of articles

02:50:18 local time map of bangla_desh BANGLADESH

20130628

* US move to cut trade privileges ‘shocking’: Bangladesh:

Bangladesh on Friday criticised a “shocking” decision by the United States to cut trade privileges in the wake of a deadly garment factory collapse, insisting it had taken concrete action to improve safety.

“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 foreign ministry statement said.
“While Bangladesh is absolutely respectful of a trading partner’s choice of decisions, it expresses its deep concern that this harsh measure may bring in fresh obstacles in an otherwise flourishing bilateral trade,” it added.
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DHAKATRIBUNE daily star bd

* Workers’ bodies flay GSP suspension:

The US decision to suspend the GSP facilities for Bangladesh will not help of workers, though the move was made to press the government into implementing their rights, ready-made garment workers’ bodies say.

They fear that similar steps by the European Union after the ‘tough’ US action would badly damage Bangladesh’s garment sector and hurt the industry’s 3.6 million workers.
US President Barack Obama early on Friday (Bangladesh time) announced the suspension of the US preferential trade benefits for Bangladesh in a mostly symbolic response to dangerous conditions in the garment industry that have cost more than 1,200 lives over the past one year.
However, the US sanction does not directly affect Bangladesh’s main export, multi-billion-dollar clothing to the United States, since garments are not eligible for duty cuts under the Generalized System of Preference, or the GSP programme.
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bdnews24

* GSP suspension to hit US-BD trade:

The government has expressed deep concern over the US’s suspension of GSP (generalised system of preferences) facilities for Bangladesh, saying it might create fresh barriers to the flourishing bilateral trade between the two countries.

President Barack Obama cut off long-time US trade benefits for Bangladesh Thursday.
“I have determined that it is appropriate to suspend Bangladesh … because it is not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to workers in the country,” Obama said in a statement.

“…Bangladesh is absolutely respectful of a trading partner’s choice of decisions, it expresses its deep concern that this harsh measure may bring in fresh obstacles to an otherwise flourishing bilateral trade,” a statement of the ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA) said Friday.

“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,” the statement said.

The government has also amended the labour law 2006, signed ILO-led government-employer-worker tripartite agreement to implement time-bound decisions, and formed a ministerial committee to ensure compliance in garments factories, the statement said.
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* Bangladesh loses US trade benefits:

US President Barack Obama on Thursday suspended trade benefits for Bangladeshi exports under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), citing the country’s alleged failure to respect international labor rights. The move came two months after the collapse of a building, the Rana Plaza, in Dhaka that killed more than 1,200 textile and garment workers.

The disaster, which followed a fire last November that killed 112 workers at the Tazreen garment factor, drew unprecedented attention to labor conditions in Bangladesh’s fast-growing apparel industry and to the major Western retailers that are its chief customers.
“I have determined that it is appropriate to suspend Bangladesh’s designation as a beneficiary developing country under the GSP program because it is not taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights to workers in the country,” Obama, who is on a tour of Africa, said in a statement issued by the White House.
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“GSP doesn’t cover sensitive products like apparel,” said Dan Anthony of the Coalition for GSP, a lobby group for US companies that benefit from GSP, which provides about US$750 million a year in tariff relief for products from developing countries. Last year, importers of Bangladeshi products received about $35 million in GSP benefits.

Of that total, the tobacco sector was the largest beneficiary, accounting for over 11 million dollars in exports. Exports of golf equipment, porcelain and china hotel and restaurant tableware, and plastic bags each received around $5 million in GSP benefits, according to Anthony. While the total represented less than 1% of the more than $4 billion in apparel goods imported to the United States from Bangladesh last year, the indirect effects of the GSP suspension are likely to be much greater, according to labor activists and their supporters.
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asiantimes

* GSP Suspension for Bangladesh: A Step Forward for Workers’ Rights and Public Health:

ILRF lauds the US Government’s decision today to suspend Bangladesh from the Generalized System of Preferences trade program.

The decision was made in response to a petition filed by the AFL-CIO more than five years ago calling for action by the Bangladesh government to end labor abuses in the garment and shrimp industries. The decision by the Obama Administration to suspend benefits comes on the heels of the Rana Plaza building collapse, which killed over 1,100 garment workers.

“The Obama Administration took an important step today in support of Bangladeshi workers’ right to stand up to their managers and industry executives and demand safe, decent jobs,” said Brian Campbell, Director of Policy and Legal Programs at the International Labor Rights Forum.

“The Government of Bangladesh all but forced this decision failing to take any meaningful steps to end rampant abuses in the garment industry over the past five years.
Instead, the Government and garment industry spent lavishly on lobbying Washington for even more industry tax breaks while hundreds of Bangladeshi garment workers died in unsafe factories and labor rights advocate Aminul Islam was murdered allegedly by Bangladesh Government security forces.”
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ilrf

* Bangladesh hopes to get GSP status back:

Bangladesh hopes that the US administration will soon bring back its GSP status, said a foreign ministry release here today.

Despite suspension of the GSP status, a benefit a least developed country is supposed to receive in the developed countries as per the provisions of the World Trade Organization, in the USA, Bangladesh hopes that the buyers would continue their business with long trusted partners and allow the US-Bangladesh trade to grow further.
In the latest development, US President Barack Obama has cut off longtime US trade benefits for Bangladesh in a mostly symbolic response to dangerous conditions in Bangladesh’s garment industry.
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BSS

* BGMEA hopes US to revive GSP:

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) today hoped that the US government will revive the suspension of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh.

“Our expectation to the US government is that it will reconsider its decision regarding the GSP facilities for Bangladesh as a Least Developed Country (LDC),” M Atiqul Islam, President of BGMEA, told at a press conference at BGMEA Bhaban.
Leaders of the garment exporters association were present on  the occasion.
Atiqul Islam said revival of the trade privileges would help  Bangladesh’s garment industry play more important role in the  country’s economy.
“BGMEA also request that the US government will not only  declare revival of the tariff facility but also take effective  steps to make the facility commercially meaningful.
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BSS newstodayBD

* US to restore GSP, hopes Bangladesh:

The government has accused a section of people both in Bangladesh and the United States for the ‘unfortunate’ GSP facility suspension in getting duty-free access to the US market, reports bdnews24.com.

“The Government of Bangladesh has come to know about the unfortunate development of GSP suspension in the USA. Indeed a section of people, both within Bangladesh and the USA, had long been campaigning for this,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday.
It hoped that Washington would soon reintroduce the facility.
The US suspended long-time preferential trade benefits for Bangladesh in a mostly symbolic response to hazardous working conditions in the garment industry that have cost more than 1,200 lives in the past year. The US sanction does not directly affect Bangladesh’s main export, multi-billion-dollar clothing to the United States, since garment is not eligible for duty cuts under the Generalized System of Preferences, or GSP programme.

But the decision raised concerns as other countries like European Union and Canada, where readymade garments enjoy this zero-duty facility, might follow suit.
“While Bangladesh is absolutely respectful of a trading partner’s choice of decisions, it expresses its deep concern that this harsh measure may bring in fresh obstacles in an otherwise flourishing bilateral trade,” the ministry said in a media release.
“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,” the release said highlighting steps taken by the government and industries to improve the situation.
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newstodayBD UNB daily star bd

* Govt urged to talk GSP with US to uphold country’s image:

Speakers at a workshop on Friday said that foreign consumers were boycotting the garment products from Bangladesh for the government’s failure to ensure safety and protect workers’ rights.

At the inaugural ceremony of a two-day workshop held at Rajshahi University, they said that effective dialogue with the United States should be initiated by the government to revive its GSP status and to bring the foreign buyers back to the Bangladesh garment industry.
The workshop was organised by Institute of Bangladesh Studies as a part of its series of workshop under the sub-project of ‘Enhance Research Capabilities’.
RU vice-chancellor Mizanuddin inaugurated the workshop on Friday morning while director of IBS M Shahidullah moderated the session.
The programme titled ‘ERC-IBS Workshop’ was funded by University Grants Commission (UGC) under the World Bank funded ‘Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project’ (HEQEP).
Shelley Feldman, professor of development sociology of Cornell University in USA, presented a keynote paper on ‘Does a consumer boycott the best option for Bangladesh garment workers’.
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* GSP suspension government’s failure: BNP:

Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul says incumbent government must take responsibility

Main opposition BNP accused the government on Friday for the suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) privilege, imposed by the US government a day before.

While addressing a programme at Jatiya Press Club in the afternoon, the party’s acting secretary general, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said the incumbent government has to take the responsibility.
“The government’s latest failure is that the US government has postponed GSP privilege for Bangladesh. This proves that the government-appointed lobbyists in Washington have failed completely,” he said.
The spokesperson of the party also said: “Many workers were killed in Rana Plaza and Tazreen disasters. But the government is yet to take any measure to prevent further catastrophe.”
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DHAKATRIBUNE UNB logo

* Inu blames Khaleda for GSP suspension:

Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu today accused the opposition leader and BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia of conducting a hectic lobbying for the suspension of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladeshi garment products in the USA market, reports BSS.

“Begum Zia wrote to the USA administration for cancellation of GSP . . . It’s really a bad news for country’s garment sector, democracy and economy. This can never be an act of any patriotic leader,” Inu, also the president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), said while exchanging views with local journalists at Bogra Circuit House.
The minister demanded that the corrupt political leaders and their sons should be brought to justice for the sake of country’s democracy and independence.
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newstodayBD UNB

* Mozena justifies GSP revocation:

The US ambassador in Dhaka Dan Mozena on Friday said his country’s GSP decision would serve as ‘the first step’ in ensuring that Bangladesh never again has another devastated Rana plaza incident or Tazreen factory fire. “It was not cancellation, it’s suspension,” he said calling for actions to regain the facility.

The envoy was talking to journalists on the sidelines of a function in Dhaka.
The US has suspended long-time preferential trade benefits, or GSP status, for Bangladesh in a mostly symbolic response to hazardous working conditions in the garment industry that have cost more than 1,200 lives in the past year.
The US sanction does not directly affect Bangladesh’s main export, multi-billion-dollar clothing to the United States, since garment is not eligible for duty cuts under the Generalized System of Preference, or GSP facility.
But the decision raised concerns as other countries like European Union and Canada, where Bangladesh’s main export item readymade garments enjoy this facility, might follow the suit.
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logo BANGLA NEWS24 bdnews24 newstodayBD DHAKATRIBUNE daily star bd

* ‘GSP revocation a political move’:

Readymade garment owners believe that the GSP facility was revoked by the US as a ‘political move’ to pressurise the government of Bangladesh into toeing its line.

The apparel exporters said that the government was already taking measures to improve the $20 billion sector, therefore there was no “specific reason or logic’ behind the decision.
However, a former BGMEA chief said the door for talks on the issue was open since the government had recently approved the TICFA draft.
The US decision comes in the wake of a fire at Tazreen Fashions Limited that killed 110 workers and collapse of Rana Plaza that killed nearly 1200 people, mostly garment workers.

The US says Bangladesh industry must improve its working conditions and workplace safety to be able to avail the GSP facility again.
Some US senators had lobbied hard against the GSP facility to push Bangladesh garment industries to protect workers’ rights and safety.
After long hearings, in which Bangladesh officials also presented the country’s case, the US Trade Representative Michael Froman issued a statement on Thursday night (2:00am Bangladesh time) saying the GSP facility for Bangladesh should be suspended.
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bdnews24

* US decision to affect image, not trade:

Business leaders and economists on Friday sharply reacted to the US decision to suspend duty-free trade privileges for Bangladesh under the Generalised System of Preferences, terming it a political decision.

They said that the US was using the GSP facilities as a leverage to implement its political agenda.
The GSP covers only $34.7 million which is less than 1 per cent of Bangladesh’s nearly $5 billion exports to the US. But the benefits do not cover the garment products.
President Barack Obama announced Thursday the suspension of US trade privileges for Bangladesh because of concerns over labour rights and worker safety that intensified after hundreds died in a series of disasters in the country’s garment industry.
Economist Anu Muhammad said that the suspension of the GSP for Bangladesh in US market would not affect the country’s overall export as 99 per cent of exports were not eligible for the GSP facilities.
He said the US was using the GSP for political manipulation in Bangladesh and the government and the garment factory owners had given it the opportunity.
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* GSP cut won’t affect exports: EPB:

The US suspension of preferential trade benefits or Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh will not affect exports, Vice-Chairman of the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) Subhashish Basu says.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman in a statement in the early hours of Friday (BdST) said President Barack Obama suspended Bangladesh’s GSP status until the country improved workers’ safety in the clothing industry.
The move will bring tariffs back on some of Bangladesh’s exports to the US market and will cost the country millions of dollars in taxes.
Textile and garment export are Bangladesh’s largest source of foreign exchange earnings.

EPB’s Basu told bdnews24.com that Bangladesh apparels do not get GSP facility in the US market. And because 86 percent of the country’s exports to the US consist of garments, the decision would not negatively impact the overall export scenario.
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bdnews24

* EU main concern: FBCCI:

More than what it means for ready-made garment exports to the US, the suspension of GSP by Washington has set off alarm bells for a different reason.

The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) is worried that this might impact on the European Union and Canadian markets which accounts for a major share of Bangladesh’s ready-made garments.
The US sanction does not directly affect Bangladesh’s main export, multi-billion-dollar clothing to the United States, since garments are not eligible for duty cuts under the Generalized System of Preference, or GSP.

But it could influence the European Union to take similar action, which would have a much bigger impact on Bangladesh and its garment sector. The European Union buys more than $12 billion in Bangladeshi garments each year, or roughly three-fifths of the country’s production.
”Our ready-made garment exports to US are a negligible portion of the total. So the GSP suspension will not affect our garment exports directly,” FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed told bdnews24.com on Friday.
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bdnews24

* EU’s response remains main concern now:

Suspension of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facility by the US will have a serious impact on foreign buyers and their investment in Bangladesh, said trade experts, chamber leaders and exporters.

GSP is accorded duty-free access to 5,000 Bangladeshi products. Ready made garments (RMG), the country’s largest export sector, does not enjoy the facility. However, suspension of a given facility would create a negative impact on the image of Bangladesh and reduce the buyers’ confidence towards its products, they said.

Retaining the GSP was a prestige issue for Bangladesh, as it refers to labour standard, working condition and safety- and security-related matters concerning the workers. Withdrawal of the benefit will have a grave impact on the country’s exports to other destinations, they opined.
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“It will give a bad signal to the European and other buyers that Bangladesh is not a secure place to source garment products.” The government has to continue its efforts to improve working condition, so that the US reviews its decision, he added.

“The suspension will have a bad effect on import from Bangladesh by other countries, especially by the European Union (EU),” said executive director of Policy Research Institute (PRI) Ahsan H Mansur.
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* No plan to ban Bangladesh apparel import: US:

US Trade Representative Mike Froman has said that his country has no plan to restrict clothing import from Bangladesh to put extra pressure on the South Asian nation to improve its safety conditions for workers.

The top US trade official told reporters on Thursday he hoped that suspending US trade benefits on a number of non-textile goods would be enough to encourage the Bangladesh government to make necessary reforms, report agencies.
The US has suspended trade privileges for Bangladesh until it improves workers’ safety conditions in the clothing industry.
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UNB

* The suspension of US GSP:

The fear that has been lurking in the minds of many has finally come true. The US government Friday last suspended the trade privileges so far made available to Bangladesh through its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for the latter’s failure to ensure labour safety and standards.

The US decision came after a six-year review that received an additional momentum in the wake of Tazreen Fashion fire and collapse of the Rana Plaza. In fact, the US government, for a long period, has fended off intense pressure from politicians and labour organisations at home to cut off GSP privileges for Bangladesh.
But the latest Rana Plaza accident that had claimed more than 1100 lives made the unpalatable US decision rather inevitable. The last moment strong lobbying on the part of the government to stave off the US action, apparently, has also failed.

However, it is hard to blame the US for resorting to the suspension of GSP, what many would tend to consider as a punitive action. In fact, both Bangladesh authorities and the apparel factory owners should shoulder major part of the blame.
|Despite repeated reminders from the US government to improve labour standards in mills and factories and grant trade union rights to the apparel sector workers, they for long preferred to remain indifferent to problems that were intensifying gradually.
However, since the Tazreen fire, the incumbent government and the relevant parties have been trying to improve safety situation in garment factories and ensure workers’ rights through necessary amendment to the labour law. They have launched extensive programmes to find out errant factories and take necessary actions against those.
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* GSP withdrawal by US has far-reaching ramifications:

The Generalised System of Preference, under which Bangladesh along with several developing nations get the chance of entering first world markets duty free or, with less additional costs, was left on volatile grounds after the recent Rana Plaza tragedy.

Though the GSP awarded to Bangladeshi products by the United States does not cover garments and is less than one per cent of the $5 billion worth of items exported, there is valid reason for anxiety.
The withdrawal of this privilege on grounds of inadequate labour safety and related issues brings forward the overall system of operation in the export-oriented industries, which has failed time and again to redress anomalies.
That the Rana Plaza disaster precipitated the scrapping of the facility is a given though it has to be admitted that years of focus on short-term parochial interests has created a raft of irregularities that have now coalesced into a mammoth multi-faceted problem.

Admitting without any excuses that our lackadaisical attitude towards certain issues has resulted in the export industry to be sullied, we want to air caution to the grave ramifications this move by the US can have over a period. Apart from earning a dubious distinction for the country, the US decision may inspire the European Union, the main market for garment products, to review the GSP right offered to Bangladesh.
Naturally, if the Europeans believe stringent moves are necessary, the industry here will be dealt a fatal blow. While we slate unreservedly all industries that are lax in the compliance department, it needs to be kept in mind that the overseas buyers’ relentless pressure for ‘cheap’ items frequently force manufacturers to cut costs, even at the risk of forgoing adequate safety features.
While the buyer nation has the right to set strict standards of safety, it cannot be denied that their addiction to low-cost products is one of the reasons why labour standards cannot align with international guidelines.
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* US Suspends Bangladesh Trade Concessions over Labour Rights Violations:

Pressure is mounting on Bangladesh to reform its labour laws with the decision of the US government to impose trade sanctions for repeated failure to respect fundamental workers’ rights.

Filed in 2007, a complaint from the AFL-CIO called on the US to suspend trade preferences to Bangladesh under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) unless the government took steps to ensure respect for the rights of workers, including in the country’s massive ready-made garment sector and the Export Processing Zones, where workers are banned by law from forming a union. Over that time, the situation for workers has only continued to deteriorate, resulting in the death of over 1,000 in the Rana Plaza disaster earlier this year.

“This long-awaited decision is an important step for workers’ rights,” explained ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “It sends a strong statement to all governments and employers that violation of the fundamental rights of workers will not be tolerated if a country expects to participate in the global economy.”

The ITUC is backing calls by the AFL-CIO and the Bangladesh union movement in calling on the government of Bangladesh to act urgently and deliberately to ensure that the rights of its workers are respected in law and in practice. The ITUC also calls on international brands sourcing from Bangladesh to step up their efforts to ensure that the rights of workers in their supply chains are fully respected. The demands placed on companies in Bangladesh by international buyers are partly responsible for perpetuating the grueling sweatshop conditions prevailing in the country.
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ITUC CSI IGB

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20130629

* Garment makers shocked:

Garment makers yesterday said they were disappointed with the US decision of suspending the GSP for Bangladesh as millions of garment workers would be affected.

Apparel sector’s apex trade body Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) in a statement also said the country’s banking, shipping and transport sectors would also be badly affected as these were directly linked with the garment industry.
“So, it is our expectation that the US government will reconsider its decision about Bangladesh as a least developed country,” BGMEA President Atiqul Islam told journalists at the trade body’s office in Dhaka.
“I will also urge that the US government would take initiatives to provide a commercially meaningful entry of goods originated from the least developed countries as per the declaration in the WTO summit in 2005,” Islam added.
He said although Bangladesh’s garment sector enjoyed duty-benefit to the US market, still the sector might be indirectly affected as the country’s image would face crisis for the US move.

Bangladeshi garment exporters have to pay 15.3 percent duty to the US market, the country’s single largest export destination. In 2012 Bangladesh paid $746 million to the US customs for exporting nearly $5 billion worth of garment products to that country.
Islam also said they were working with the government for adopting the ILO’s widely recommended Better Work Programme to improve the working condition in garment sector.
He added the BGMEA would start introducing the Better Work Programme in the garment sector as soon as the government amended the labour law in parliament.
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daily star bd

* Khaleda lobbied for cancellation of GSP facilities in US: Nasim:

Awami League (AL) presidium member and former home minister Mohammad Nasim on Friday alleged that  Leader Khaleda Zia lobbied for cancellation of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in garment export of Bangladesh to the United States market.

The AL leaders said this while taking part in electioneering for the mayoral candidate of the 14-party alliance Advocate Azmatullah Khan at different areas of Gazipur district in the ensuing poll to Gazipur City Corporation.
Nasim said in a recent article published in the journal Washington Post opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia requested the US authorities to cancel GSP facilities on garment products of Bangladesh. “It is a threat to the country. She (Begum Zia) could not have come up with such a request if she had possessed a little feeling for 16 crore people of the country,” the AL leader added.
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logo

* Initiate talks with US:

Trade bodies fear image crisis

Leaders of the country’s leading trade bodies yesterday expressed grave concern about the overall impact in their export trade following the suspension Bangladesh’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) in the US market.

“The suspension of Bangladesh’s duty-free benefits under the GSP scheme will have an adverse impact on Bangladesh-US trade and tarnish the country’s image abroad,” Abdus Salam Murshedy, President of Exporters Association of Bangladesh (EAB) told The New Nation yesterday.
He added, “The latest move of the Obama Administration will give wrong signal to the US importers and investors that Bangladesh is not a partner to do business with or not a place to make investment.”
The EAB leader apprehend that suspension of GSP is likely to deliver a similar signal to the non-US importers like EU, Canada, Australia, and Japan which give Bangladesh the same facility.
“Though the privilege covers an insignificant quantity of our total exports to the US market, suspension of the benefit would have a long-term negative impact on the country’s overall export sector,” Murshey feared. The country exported products worth $4.87 billion in 2011 to the US market and its export under GSP was worth $ 26.3 million, which covered 0.54 per cent of its total export. The exports covered GSP facility were tobacco products, frozen fish, furniture, ceramic and plastic products. Expressing disappointment over the US move, M Atiqul Islam, President of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) said, “I am shocked by the US decision and do not find any logical reason behind this.”
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NewNation

* GSP cut for BD was inevitable:

Congressman Joseph Crowley, the Chairman of Bangladesh Caucus to US congress, took position for the suspension of the US trade benefits for Bangladesh.

He said, “President Obama’s decision on GSP facilities was inevitable as it will force Bangladesh government to take proper steps to protect the workers’ rights”
When contacted, Crawley sent a written speech to banglanews, where he said, “I was personally concerned following the recent accidents in garments sector of Bangladesh.”
In his written speech, Crawley also said, After Tazreen fire, he encouraged US trade representative Ron Krik to send letter for reviewing the trade benefit for Bangladesh.”
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BANGLA NEWS24

* GSP suspension to spur further efforts:

Industry, government, experts hope to regain privileges soon

The suspension of General System of Preference (GSP) came as a shock to both the government and the export industry, at a time when a number of initiatives are being taken to fix factory safety problems and address labour issues. However, both groups consider this as a last chance to set things right and regain trade privileges permanently.

Analysts feel the impact has more to do with image than with export figures, as 99% of the nation’s exports to the US have never enjoyed GSP benefits. The US decision might invite similar steps from the European Union, which currently allows duty-free access to all imports from Bangladesh.

All groups believe that recovery is difficult but not impossible, provided serious and visible efforts are taken by both the government and private sector.

The USTR action follows campaigning by a group of influential Congressmen, who pressurised the Obama administration to strip Bangladesh of preferential treatment in protest against lax monitoring of factory standards, leading to tragedies like the Tazreen factory fire and the Rana Plaza collapse.
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* ITUC appreciates US GSP decision:

The ITUC also calls on international brands sourcing from Bangladesh to step up their efforts to ensure that the rights of workers in their supply chains are fully respected

20130629 DHAKATRIBUNE

International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) observed the US decision of suspending Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh as an important step towards workers’ rights.

“This long-awaited decision is an important step for workers’ rights,” explained ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
“It sends a strong statement to all governments and employers that violation of the fundamental rights of workers will not be tolerated if a country expects to participate in the global economy.”

The ITUC also calls on international brands sourcing from Bangladesh to step up their efforts to ensure that the rights of workers in their supply chains are fully respected.
The demands placed on companies in Bangladesh by international buyers are partly responsible for perpetuating the gruelling sweatshop conditions prevailing in the country, it said.

The ITUC was backing calls by the AFL-CIO and the Bangladesh union movement in calling on the government of Bangladesh to act urgently and deliberately to ensure that the rights of its workers are respected in law and in practice.
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* GSP cut an opportunity to improve Bangladesh: US:

The United States has said suspension of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) benefits provides an opportunity to Bangladesh in working towards labour reforms and improving working environment, reported Press Trust of India (PTI).

“US believes this moment represents an opportunity for Bangladesh to take action for improving labour and safety standards,” said the Indian State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, on June 28.
“US will work with Bangladesh on the steps needed to restore its GSP privileges, but it requires to go through a process that can make improvements in the working conditions there,” he said, a day after the US President Barack Obama suspended GSP benefits to Bangladesh, citing lack of labour reforms in the garment industry.

GSP is a 37-year-old trade preference program under which the United States provides duty-free treatment to many imports from developing countries, the news agency reported on June 29.
The suspension will become effective 60 days after the publication of the presidential proclamation in the Federal Register.

“We will continue to work with them for taking additional substantive actions to improve worker safety. Addressing these underlying labour rights and workplace safety issues will help ensure that there’s never again another fire or collapse like we saw in some of these horrific incidents,” Ventrell said.
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daily star bd

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* ‘US decision to suspend GSP illogical’:

From businessmen to workers’ platforms, everyone has termed ‘illogical’ the US decision to revoke Bangladesh’s preferential trading status despite various government efforts to improve factory working conditions and labour rights, reports bdnews24. com.

President Barack Obama suspended Bangladesh from a programme that provides tax breaks to developing countries in what is seen as a powerful warning shot to it about the need to improve safety conditions for garment workers.
The decision, however, will have little impact on multi-billion dollar ready-made garment export, they say.
The government has said the move was ‘unfortunate’ and hoped Washington would consider reviving the facility soon.
It came in the wake of last November’s fire at Tazreen Fashions Limited killing over 110 workers and April’s collapse of multi-storied Rana Plaza where over 1,100 people mostly RMG workers died.
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newstodayBD

* The effects of GSP suspension:

This suspension is little more than a symbolic action by the US government to punish the wrong industries for the recent factory tragedies

The Barack Obama-led US government very recently suspended Bangladesh from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which allows duty-free entry of over 5000 goods to the US market from least developed countries.

This action comes as a result of Bangladesh government’s failure to improve working conditions inside the country. Although Washington-based lobbyists have been making a case for Bangladesh’s suspension for about a year now, the US government finally gave in to their demands after over 1131 workers died in a tragic factory collapse earlier this year. What does this suspension mean for Bangladesh and its growing economy?

The probable financial loss in terms of falling export will be very small, at least in the short run. As RMG products (which make up most of the US import from Bangladesh) are not included in the list of duty-free products in GSP, there will an export fall of about $40m according to Charles Kernaghan, executive director of Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights.

At present, Bangladesh exports about $5bn worth of goods (mostly RMG products) to the US every year; hence, the suspension from US GSP will account for a fall in export of about 0.8%.
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* GSP suspension goes against Bangladesh’s development: Faruque Khan:

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Col (Retd) Faruque Khan today said the United Stated has taken stance against development of Bangladesh by suspending GSP (generalized system of preferences) facilities for its products.

He made the comment while addressing a seminar on eco tourism in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) at CIRDAP auditorium in the city.
Ministry for CHT Affairs organized the seminar with  cooperation of International Centre for Integrated Mountain  Development (ICIMOD).
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BSS UNB

* BGMEA requests GSP revival:

The suspension of the GSP facility may have a long-term impact on overall exports and eventually it will affect the workers of the garment industry, commercial institutions, shipping and transport sectors

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association on Friday expressed hope that the US government will revoke the decision to suspend the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh.
“Our expectation from the US government is that it will reconsider its decision regarding the GSP facilities for Bangladesh as [it is] an LDC,” BGMEA President M Atiqul Islam told a press conference at the BGMEA headquarters, reports BSS.
Leaders of the garment exporters association were also present.

He said revival of the trade privileges would help Bangladesh’s garment industry play a more important role in the country’s economy.
BGMEA also requested that the US government not only revive the tariff facility, but also take effective steps to make the facility commercially meaningful.
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* BGMEA criticizes US for not allowing timeframe:

BGMEA President Atiqul Islam Saturday expressed his disappointment over the US decision of suspending the GSP for Bangladesh without giving any time limit to improve the situation.

“Sudden suspension of the facilities without giving any timeframe is quite unexpected,” said the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president urging the US authorities to consider the issue and retain the facilities as it was. Addressing a certificate distribution and orientation programme for the newly trained RMG workers, the BGMEA president hinted there might be involvement of some competitive countries behind suspension of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facilities. He, however, didn’t mention the name of any country.
Terming the suspension very unfortunate, Atique said that it came at a time when they were trying to improve the situation everyday. “The labour law is being revised, the new wage board has been formed to declare the new wages, the child labour has been eliminated — under this situation suspension of the GSP is very much unexpected,” said the BGMEA president.
Garment makers attended the programme also said they were disappointed with the US decision of suspending the GSP for Bangladesh as millions of garment workers would be affected.
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* CCCI urges US to resume GSP facilities:

Trade body leaders have urged the US government to resume the GSP (generalised system of preference) facilities for Bangladeshi products.

In a statement Mahbubul Alam, president of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), said the decision of the Barack Obama administration would not hit the RMG (ready made garment) sector directly but it would affect image of Bangladesh in the world.
It is however a matter of concern that the GSP facilities suspended by the United States might influence the market access of Bangladesh in the European countries and Canada, Mr Alam said.
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* BNP to request US for restoring GSP: Fakhrul:

Opposition BNP on Saturday said it will request the USA to withdraw its decision on suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility to Bangladesh.

“We’ll formally request the US through a letter to withdraw its GSP suspension decision,” he told a press briefing at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office.
Fakhrul also said BNP will also issue a statement requesting the USA to restore the GSP facility, allowing duty-free access of the country’s goods to its market.
In the interest of the country, Fakhrul said, they have already started working on the issue to convince the USA to withdraw its decision.
The BNP spokesman trashed the Information Minister Hasanul Haque Inu’s allegation that the USA has suspended the GSP facility following a letter by BNP chairperson and condemned the minister’s remark. “He has provided fictitious information.”
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* CPB condemns US decision to suspend GSP:

Condemning the US decision to suspend Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) on Saturday demanded Bangladesh government to withdraw various economic and military facilities given to the USA.

In a statement CPB president Mujahidul Islam and its acting general secretary Shah Alam said “Though hundreds of products were included under GSP facilities, but the facilities were not applicable for garments and other products which Bangladesh exports to USA in a huge quantity. Only one percent of total exported item was under the purview of GSP facilities.”
“The USA threatened to cancel GSP with a view to intervene into country’s internal matters. The USA used the GSP as a tool to maintain its political and world-strategic interest rather to consider it an economic cooperation.”
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* Hasina slams Khaleda for urging US to scrap GSP, impose sanctions:

Rejecting the opposition leader’s claim she did not write the article in the Washington Times requesting cancellation of Bangladesh’s GSP, the Prime Minister on Saturday blamed Khaleda Zia for appealing to the US to scrap the GSP facility and impose sanctions on Bangladesh.

“You can’t deny it. At the end of the article, your name and designation was mentioned… that the article was written by the former Prime Minister and current leader of the opposition,” Sheikh Hasina said, taking part in the general discussion on the proposed budget for the FY 14.
She said there could not be any more regrettable example before the countrymen than this. The opposition leader had written against the countrymen for suspending the GSP and stopping free travel of people in both the countries.
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* Khaleda urges US to reconsider GSP benefits for Bangladesh:

Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Khaleda Zia on Saturday urged the US government to reconsider the GSP benefits for Bangladesh. “The US has suspended GSP benefits for Bangladesh. There’s no scope to take the issue lightly,” she told the House while delivering her speech on the proposed budget for the new fiscal.

Khaleda, also the BNP chairperson, urged the European Union and other countries not to follow the US decision as the workers will ultimately be affected if it happens.
She said all will have to work together giving the highest importance to its solution.  “We need coordinated efforts for the improvement of the working environment in the readymade garment industry,” she said.
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* BNP to formally request US for restoring GSP: Fakhrul:

The main opposition BNP said on Saturday that it will request the USA to withdraw its decision on suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh. “We’ll formally request the US through a letter to withdraw its GSP suspension decision,” he told a press briefing at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office.

Fakhrul also said BNP will also issue a statement requesting the USA to restore the GSP facility, allowing duty-free access of the country’s goods to its market.
In the interest of the country, Fakhrul said, they have already started working on the issue to convince the USA to withdraw its decision.
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* FBCCI seeks steps to restore GSP:

The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) on Saturday voiced concern over the withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh’s exports to the US market.

In a statement, the FBCCI said the GSP withdrawal will largely affect the exporters of various items, including plastic goods and ceramics.
”The decision of the US government will lead to negative impact on the country’s export business in the US. Besides, it’ll lead to an image crisis for Bangladesh,” it said.
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* Govt must obey US norms to get GSP back: Dr Yunus:

Nobel Laureate Dr Mohammad Yunus, on Saturday, said the government must adhere to the US guidelines on improving work conditions, to get the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) back.

“If the necessary US conditions are fulfilled, we would get the GSP facility back. The US has suspended the GSP, as Bangladesh could not fulfil their demands for better working conditions and labour values. The rights of the workers should be protected. If we keep silent, nothing will work,” he said.
Dr Yunus, also the Grameen Bank founder, said this, while delivering his speech on ‘Social Business Youth Convention-2013′, organised jointly by Daffodil International University (DIU), Social Business Students’ Forum (SBSF), and Yunus Centre, at the DIU auditorium in the city.
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* Blame game on GSP:

The Jatiya Sangsad yesterday witnessed yet another blame game between top leaders of the opposition and treasury benches over the US’ revoking of Bangladesh’s generalised system of preferences facilities.

Taking part in the budget discussion in parliament, Leader of the House Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia shrugged off their own responsibilities in retaining the facility and put the onus on each other.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith, speaking in the House, appealed to the US to refrain from withdrawing the GSP facilities for Bangladesh. He said the negative impact of the withdrawal might spread to other sectors and “there lie our apprehensions and fears”.
Showing a copy of an article written earlier in the year by Khaleda Zia in a US daily, Hasina said it was the BNP chairperson who had appealed to the US administration through the write-up to cancel GSP facilities for Bangladesh.
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daily star bd

* US to work with Bangladesh on GSP restoration:

The United States will work with Bangladesh to take the steps needed to potentially restore its GSP privileges that were suspended on Thursday. Patrick Ventrell, Director of the Press office at the US State Department, made the remarks while replying to queries on GSP suspension at a regular press briefing in Washington on Friday.

However, he said, “That requires going through a process so that Bangladesh can make improvements.”
About the suspension, the official said, “Let me note that the United States believes that this moment represents an opportunity for Bangladesh to take action to improve labor and safety standards.”
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* US says GSP cut an Opportunity:

The United States on Friday defended its suspension of Bangladesh`s trade preferences as an “opportunity” to improve conditions for workers there.

“The United States believes this moment represents an opportunity for Bangladesh to take action to improve labour safety standards,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in Washington.
The Bangladesh Foreign Ministry called the suspension a “shocking” blow to its stepped up efforts to improve factory safety after more than 1,100 people died in the April collapse of a building housing multiple garment factories.
The Bangladesh garment manufacturers association objected to the move, as did a German industry organization that charged it would not help local industry.
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* US State Dept spokesman draws barrage of questions:

US state department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell drew a barrage of questions after he told a press briefing in Washington on Friday that the suspension of GSP benefits was an ‘opportunity’ for Bangladesh to improve its labour and safety standards.

Replying to a question over the suspension of the GSP benefits for Bangladesh, Ventrell said that the US believed that ‘this moment represents an opportunity for Bangladesh’ to take action to improve its labour safety standards.
He said the US would work with Bangladesh on the steps needed to potentially restore its GSP privileges, but that requires going through a process so that Bangladesh can make improvements.
‘We’ll continue to work with them so that they can take additional substantive actions to improve worker safety,’ said Ventrell.
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* USTR suggests ‘action plan’ to get GSP restored:

The United States Trade Representative (USTR) has asked the Bangladesh government to implement an ‘action plan’ to improve labour standards in the apparel industries, develop fire safety and improve building structures for a favourable revision of GSP suspension.

The plan also seeks to amend the current EPZ law and labour law to enable factory workers to have their freedom of association and collective bargaining rights.
The US government on June 27 suspended Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility for Bangladesh’s export to its market.
The USTR, however, said the implementation of the proposed plan and reinstatement of the GSP facility will be tough for Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh Embassy in Washington sent the action plan of the USTR to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Commerce for necessary actions. The GSP suspension will be reviewed after six months from the date the facility was suspended, while the suspension will be effective after 60 days, trade officials said.
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* Exporters bracing for fallout:

Ceramic wares, tobacco and plastic goods may lose competitiveness

Exporters of ceramic wares, tobacco and plastic goods said they will lose competitiveness in the US market due to the suspension of trade privileges by the world’s largest economy.

“We are fully compliant. But we are going to pay the price for the faults of others,” said Rizvi Ul Kabir, secretary general of Bangladesh Ceramic Wares Manufacturers Association.
Ceramic items accounted for around one-fifth of the total export earnings of $34.66 million that local industries logged under the GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) last year.
In 2012, export earnings from ceramics, mainly table wares, stood at $5.72 million, down from $6.17 million the previous year, according to US International Trade Commission data.
Kabir said ceramic products would face duty to enter the US markets and it would affect competitiveness.
“We have already started to feel the pinch. A US brand, Libbey, told us yesterday (on Friday) that we will have to cut prices by 20-25 percent unless the US withdraws the suspension. They want us to cut prices because our products will be subject to duty,” he said.
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daily star bd

* Regaining GSP facility warrants all-out efforts:

The suspension of the GSP (generalised system of preferences) facilities to Bangladesh by the United States has not come as a bolt from the blue. For, this unfortunate development was being speculated upon, for quite sometime in the recent times.

Hence, it has not come as a total surprise. Nevertheless, it is a shock for a country like Bangladesh, whose economy, particularly the apparel sector and several others, are likely to be adversely affected, in terms of exports not only to the USA but also to the major buyers including those in the European Union (EU) by the suspension of the GSP.

While it is only logical to have a dispassionate assessment of the conditions leading to this development, the paramount need of the hour is to make concerted efforts by all concerned to help revive the GSP status. Probably, such revival may not be possible immediately because the decision was taken by the US administration that may be unlikely to withdraw it quickly. It is widely believed that this decision has been taken after careful consideration.
Yet then, the reversal of the suspension is also not unlikely either; it will largely depend upon the tasks that will be needed to be accomplished for attaining the purpose. Needless to say, issues involved in the suspension of the GSP by President Barack Obama are well known; it is rational to consider that the grounds that have been cited as the reasons for the decision are not totally inappropriate for warranting such a drastic step.
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* Suspension and speculations:

Richard Trumka, President AFL-CIO thinks that the US Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) suspension was an “important move” and a “catalyst” to bring about a change in the labour situation in Bangladesh.

Mike Froman, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) spokesperson thinks that we need to “restore eligibility”; US President, Obama thinks that we have not “taking steps.” The opposition party is rating this as a government failure; Government is blaming certain quarters for having actively lobbied against us; and while some are grieving with us, some are also of the opinion that we deserved it. Who’s going to be working now? And what work needs to be done in reality? What is actually happening out there in the real world of apparel sourcing? I am sharing a recent scenario:

At a buying office in Hong Kong, everyone was wearing the same jackets. Black is of course a colour that hardly can be spotted as having different shades, especially on a jacket. But this black seemed to boast of uniformity that no other black on the same floor of the building wore. I counted the number of jackets that had the same tone and cut.

There were altogether 18 black jackets and a dozen more hanging on the rails of a display room of a buying office in Hong Kong. Out of curiosity, I touched one of them and checked out the country of manufacturing. It was Vietnam. My heart sank. Just when I had been contemplating on setting up a brand new blazer factory, I encountered the most aggressive counter product from a competitor. I checked out the prices of the coordinates, meaning a suit. Vietnam was selling them at US$39.

The coats looked as if they could go by any brand. The fusing was excellent; the cut flattering; the fall glorious. And here I was trying to cut corners and just convert a few woven shirts lines to making blazers with just a few more machines that would add more sharpness to the finishing. This is what’s wrong with most of us, the Bangladeshi manufacturers. Even while we aim at producing higher value added products, we invest shyly and expect huge returns.
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* EU won’t follow US GSP action:

The European Union (EU) will not suspend or discontinue the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility for Bangladesh. Rather it will work closely with Bangladeshi stakeholders to improve workplace safety, said William Hanna, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh

“The European Union will not follow the steps taken by the US on GSP facilities. It will maintain close ties with the stakeholders including the government, apparel makers and buyers to improve workplace safety,” William Hanna said while he was speaking in an interview with a local television channel ‘Channel i’ Saturday.
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* US GSP suspension and the worry-box:

Now that the US has finally suspended the GSP (generalised system of preferences) facilities, we in this country are left with a worry-box threatening to release swirls of dark smoke not just for the export sector but the economy as a whole.

The decision, ending the year-long review of Bangladesh’s labour rights situation, clearly reflects the USTR’s (United States Trade Representative) earlier warnings to ‘limit or suspend’ duty preferences on grounds of less than secure labour standards and workplace conditions in the country’s garment sector. However, following the USTR’s hearing in Washington in March this year, it looked like the decision may not hinge on outright suspension, given that slashing the head for a bad headache is no solution.
Observers speculated that the US in all probability would put strict conditions for compliance, perhaps in the form of a road map, for visible improvements in labour standards and factory safety.

Speculations are over; the nail has finally been hammered into the GSP facilities- and yes, to the shock of many local and international observers who did not at all approve of the country’s labour rights scenario and workplace conditions, but wanted things to improve as fast as possible, without being affected by harsh actions from the major destinations of its exports.
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* China considering preferential trade benefits for B’desh:

China is considering to expand preferential trade arrangements which will cover almost 95 percent of Bangladesh goods in addition to discussing the issue of rules of origin to reduce the trade imbalance.

It was mentioned during a bilateral consultation meeting between Bangladesh and China in Beijing.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque and Vice Foreign Minister of Chinese Foreign Ministry Liu Zhenmin led the respective sides to the meeting, according to a message received here on Saturday.
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* B’desh to miss opportunity unless it signs TICFA:

Bangladesh will lose the opportunity of trade negotiations with the USA if it does not sign the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA), Commerce Minister GM Quader told Parliament on Saturday.

“Bangladesh’s interests won’t be protected without this agreement (TICFA), and the country will be deprived of economic and commercial privileges”, he said, answering a tabled scripted question of Nurul Islam BSc (Awami League-Chittagong).
GM Quader informed the House that if the TICFA is signed with the USA, Bangladesh will get the chance of at least one discussion on trade and investment every year.
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* Ticfa an innocent proposal: BoI chief:

Executive chairman of the Board of Investment (BoI) SA Samad on Sunday said the government’s move to sign Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (Ticfa) with the United States is an ‘innocent’ matter.

Addressing a discussion on the budget bill for fiscal 2013-14 organised by the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) at its office, he said, “Ticfa is an innocent proposal to set up a forum.”
“Ticfa, some people say, is another intervention of the US authorities to strangulate Bangladesh. In reality, it’s an agreement to take up a forum to discuss trade and investment,” he added.
The cabinet at a regular meeting on June 17 last approved a proposal to sign Ticfa with the USA.
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* WP protests against TICFA:

The Workers Party of Bangladesh, an ally of the ruling Awami League-led alliance, on Saturday called on the government to refrain from signing proposed Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement with the United States.

At rally in front of the National Press Club, the party general secretary Anisur Rahman Mollick said that Bangladesh would not be benefited from the deal, rather the national economy would be hampered.
The cabinet on June 17 had approved the draft of the deal that would only serve the interests of the imperialist America, Anisur said.
‘The US would establish its control over the economy of Bangladesh and our economic developments would be hampered,’ he said.
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* Obama sticks it to Bangladesh:

I am heartbroken that the US has taken the decision to revoke GSP facility. As a Bangladeshi American I cannot but blame Obama, my President, for being callous and jaundiced. But, I cannot also help but blame the factory owners and the Bangladesh government who do not understand that they live in a globalised and competitive world, writes Kayes Ahmed:

I haave been in a summer torpor this year, which is not very usual for me. But just as I was getting ready to surrender to the torpor, President Obama decided to stick it to Bangladesh. That woke me right up. This morning the New York Times tweet announced that the US is going to suspend the GSP (generalised system of trade preferences) for Bangladesh.
GSP is a programme that was set up by the World Trade Organisation to promote development around the world. If Bangladesh does not deserve some developmental aid, I am not sure which country does deserve the succour from something like the GSP. Bangladesh is allowed to export some 5,000 products to the US — duty free. Unfortunately, and maybe fortunately, the biggest exports from Bangladesh garments are subject to duty and tariff. So the impact of this cowardly and cynical move may be somewhat muted.

Dear readers, do not pay attention to the town criers who would get up on top of the minarets and yell that this decision came due to Tazreen factory fire and Rana Plaza collapse. Nope, this is Obama catering to his base. I am an Obama supporter but not a blind one. There have been rumblings from the disgruntled labour activists and the various companies that got impacted by the globalisation and gradual move of jobs and business of the garments sector to China and now Bangladesh. This suspension comes from a 2007 filing by the AFL-CIO (a labour union-based entity on a date to irrelevance in the very near future).
I have written in another article (Don’t kill the Golden Goose) about the efforts of AFL-CIO.
I have told everyone who would listen that one ignores the AFL-CIO in a democratic administration at their great peril.
There was no counter-narrative to the AFL-CIO narrative but just boasting by the factory owners and the labour leaders like Shirin Akther.
What these piffle-snorts failed to understand that AFL-CIO is a key component to the Obama GOTV. For the uninitiated, GOTV = Get Out The Vote.
This is a huge data-driven operation where each individual voter is pre-selected and a message is crafted and tailored to that individual. Now someone has to get to that specific voter. Well, AFL-CIO is the machine that delivers the message by hand after the long technological gestation. Believe me, they are important to Obama and the Democrats.

AFL-CIO set up an office in Dhaka and they were very angry about the killing of a labour activist in Bangladesh. So am I. What AFL-CIO demanded is that Bangladesh workers are paid ‘living wage’.
Yes, that is the tear jerker slogan ‘living wage’ that is used by everyone without knowing what it means to be living. As if people in the garments industry and other low age industry do not have a living wage!
What they really meant is that they want ‘wage parity’ with the US. Once you achieve parity then there will be no reason for the Bangladeshi garments industry to exist. I am sure under the guise of brotherly love and concerns there was the great desire to see some of the work come back to say, um, North Carolina.

Even with all of the pressure, the needle did not move because there was no plausible deniability for the Obama administration to the fact that they are pandering to AFL-CIO and other labour organisations. All that changed with the Rana Plaza collapse and the following inapt and bumbling handling of the event by the government and the garments industry. First and foremost was the immediate defensive recoil by the Awami League government which tried to keep the foreign media out of the country.
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* GSP facilities in EU till Dec! :

Senior diplomats assured that European Union wouldn’t withdraw or postpone Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh before this December.

Former senior diplomats advised government for taking adequate steps within two months to brought back GSP facilities in US and also keeping strong negotiations to keep it run in European Union.
They also advised to Foreign Ministry and Commerce Ministry to work on the matter.
European Union is likely to enact new rule on GSP after December.
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* EU GSP withdrawal for Bangladesh must be avoided: EU:

The European Union (EU) on Sunday said a decision to withdraw the EU GSP for Bangladesh must be avoided, as it would have far-reaching consequences for its jobs and economy.

“The GSP provided by the EU benefits all products from Bangladesh under its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. This means that a decision to withdraw the EU GSP for Bangladesh must be avoided, as it would have far-reaching consequences for jobs and for the economy,” said an EU release.
The EU wishes to remain engaged with Bangladesh so that it can preserve the preferential access to the EU market which has greatly helped socioeconomic development over the years, it said.
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* EU not to go US way:

Bangladesh’s biggest trading partner, the European Union, which absorbs most of the readymade garment exports, has vowed to provide ‘the best possible’ market access in its effort to improve labour standards.

The EU delegation in Bangladesh in a statement on Sunday said, “The GSP provided by the EU benefits all products from Bangladesh under its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme.”
“This means that a decision to withdraw the EU GSP for Bangladesh must be avoided, as it could have far-reaching consequences for jobs and for the economy,” it said.
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* EU seeks to read new labour law:

Trade commissioner hosts meeting in Geneva next week

The European Union yesterday said it wants to look into Bangladesh’s amended labour law as EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht is set to host a meeting in Geneva next week to discuss trade privileges.

“A decision to withdraw the EU GSP for Bangladesh must be avoided, as it would have far-reaching consequences for jobs and for the economy,” the EU said in a statement.
At a meeting of the Local Consultative Group in Dhaka, European ambassadors urged the government to share the draft of the amended labour law with them so they could suggest corrective measures.
“The EU ambassadors clearly said they do not want to revoke the GSP facility. However, they urged the government to share the proposed labour law with them so that no such situation is created in future,” a finance ministry official said.
The EU ambassadors said their main concern was how to ensure better working environment for garments factory workers in Bangladesh.
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daily star bd

* EU to continue GSP for Bangladesh:

Disapproving fear and speculation about European Union’s suspension of GSP benefit for Bangladesh, the EU on Sunday said it wished to remain engaged with Bangladesh so that it can preserve the preferential access to the EU market.

‘The GSP provided by the EU benefits all products from Bangladesh under its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. This means that a decision to withdraw the EU GSP for Bangladesh must be avoided, as it would have far-reaching consequences for jobs and for the economy,’ a statement by the European Union said.
The EU statement came two days after the US decision to suspend Bangladesh’s GSP facility to put pressure on the country to improve working conditions and safety in the garment industry following killing of more than 1,200 workers in factory disasters in the last one year.
The readymade garment, a major export product of Bangladesh, had not enjoyed the GSP facility in the United States when it  took the decision to suspend GSP for a few products, but Bangladesh gets GSP facility for RMG products in the EU market.
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* BD may have a short pause in RMG growth for GSP suspension:

Bangladesh may have a short pause in the growth of its readymade garment (RMG) industry because of the suspension of the GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) by the United States but it will ultimately grow, said the chairman of a global packaging retailer Sunday.

“I believe recent tragedies and some of the US government position on the GSP facilities could potentially cause short-term pause in some of the growths. But our feeling is Bangladesh has better managed production requirements to the rest of the world,” said Dean Scarborough, chairman, president and CEO of Avery Dennison, a retail branding and information solution company of the US.

“Over time the market will continue to grow and that’s why we are continuing our investment in the market. This shows our confidence in Bangladeshi suppliers of the garments industry,” he said.
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* Govt yet to decide on TU activities in EPZs:

The government is yet to decide whether it would allow trade union (TU) activities in the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) of the country in line with the suggestion made by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) office, a secretary to the government said.

“The existing laws related to BEPZA (Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority) will expire at the end of this year and the government is yet to decide whether the EPZs would be brought under the purview of the labour law,” said labour secretary Mikail Shipar after an inter-ministerial meeting on issues concerning the GSP cancellation by the US and updating the labour and safety standards in the country’s apparel sector.
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* Punishing the workers:

We abhor the greed and apathy that led to the Rana Plaza disaster, but we think that taking away GSP privileges will be counter-productive


The recent move made by the US administration to revoke GSP privileges for Bangladesh strikes us as hypocritical and extremely unlikely to have any positive impact on workers in our nation.

We would argue that this decision by the US administration is not reacting to the Rana Plaza tragedy, but rather giving in to pressure from AFL-CIO, the powerful American labour lobby, which has been petitioning for such a move since 2007 – leading to the logical inference that the AFL-CIO has cynically taken advantage of the tragedy in Savar to push through its agenda, which has nothing to do with protecting Bangladeshi workers.

It is also a touch absurd to see the US championing unions and unionisation in Bangladesh, given their own long-standing efforts to roll back unions in their own country. Indeed, its largest employer, Walmart, does not have a unionised work-force, and the country’s hostility to unions has been a cornerstone of its economic model for the past 30 years.

We abhor the greed and apathy that led to the Rana Plaza disaster, but we think that taking away GSP privileges will be counter-productive.
As GSP benefits did not extend to the garment industry, there is no impetus for garment factory owners to do anything differently, they have also taken away the leverage they would have had through the promise of the extension of benefits if the garment industry was able to meet international labour standards.
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* GSP suspension a wake-up call:

The United States, which has become one of the main destinations of export of garment products from Bangladesh, a least developed country, has suspended the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) until and unless there is an improvement in factories in terms of building codes, workers’ rights, formation of trade unions in industrial sectors, working conditions and appropriate wages.

As of now, 0.54 per cent of Bangladesh’s total exports enjoy duty-free status, but US realises $720 million as duty on garments. The GSP rule requires a country to demonstrate that it has taken steps to ensure internationally-recognised human rights for workers in the factories. Absence of the GSP facility will cost Bangladesh millions of dollars in duties to be paid to the US.US
Trade Representative Michael Froman said, the goal, of course, is not only to see Bangladesh restore its eligibility for benefits, but to see its workers in safe and appropriate work situation.
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* Dhaka wants Ticfa before GSP appeal:

Bangladesh prefers to sign the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (Ticfa) with the US before appealing for the reinstatement of GSP, Commerce Minister GM Quader said yesterday.

Usually, there is no system for appealing to the US for a reinstatement of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), a trade benefits facility suspended on Thursday over “serious shortcomings” in safety and labour standards.
The US itself will review the decision after six months of the suspension to evaluate the progress over commitments made at the consecutive hearings at the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington, Quader said.
The minister added he had started preparing the progress report yesterday on actions over the promises made to the USTR, the minister told The Daily Star over the phone.
“I ordered the officials to make the report within two days, but it might not be possible. It may take a few more days,” he said. “On completion of the progress report, I will place it before the cabinet. If the cabinet allows me to send it to the US government, I will do so.
“But the chances of the GSP restoration will be brighter if Bangladesh can sign the Ticfa as the country could appeal via this trade dialogue platform,” the minister said.
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20130701-02

* Government to form committee for reviving GSP:

Decision comes as US suspends GSP for Bangladesh

In the wake of the suspension of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) facility by the US government for Bangladesh, the government on Monday decided to form a high-profile committee to pinpoint loopholes in the existing labour law and put forward recommendations to make it a more time befitting one.

The decision was taken in the regular cabinet meeting held at the Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
As per the decision, Expatriates’ Welfare & Overseas Employment minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, the former labour minister and ex-official of International Labour Organisation (ILO) is expected to lead the committee.

Emerging from the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters that the issue was not in the regular agenda of the meeting. The prime minister raised the issue aiming to revive the trade facility.

Mosharraf said: “The US authority did not cancel the GSP for Bangladesh. They have suspended it on basis of demands by some international labour organisations. They came up with the move due to the misappropriation of labour laws and labour issues. We are going to amend the law as per the recommendation of those organisations and US administration.”
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* EU to help Bangladesh keep GSP intact:

A decision to withdraw the EU GSP for Bangladesh must be avoided, as it would have far-reaching consequences for jobs and for the economy: EU

The European Union has expressed the opinion that a decision to withdraw the Generalised System of Preferences for Bangladesh should be avoided as such an action could have far-reaching consequences on the country’s economy and employment.

“The GSP provided by the EU benefits all products from Bangladesh under its Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. This means that a decision to withdraw the EU GSP for Bangladesh must be avoided, as it would have far-reaching consequences for jobs and for the economy,” said an EU release.
It said preferential access to the EU market has greatly helped socioeconomic development in Bangladesh over the years, and this should be preserved as the EU wishes to remain engaged on labour rights issues within Bangladesh. The EU will closely follow the ILO’s work in monitoring progress in efforts by stakeholders to improve labour conditions in Bangladesh this year and in 2014.
The EU aims to uphold fundamental human rights, of which adhering to core labour standards is an intrinsic part. “This is why the EU is lending maximum support to theILO process. The EU will also act in full respect of its WTO commitment to avoid discrimination.”
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* RMG not to be hurt by GSP halt:

20130701 DHAKATRIBUNE GRAPHIC

The apparel industry in general will  not be harmed by the recent suspension from the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) imposed by USA, as it has been exporting apparels without any such advantage, according to analysts.

The GSP suspension would however increase US duties on an array of products, including tobacco, sporting equipment, porcelain china, plastic products and a small amount of textile products, which represents only 1% of Bangladesh’s total export to the US, analysts said.
In the wake of the tragic building collapse in Savar on April 24 this year, which killed more than 1100 people, mostly garment workers, the US administration on Thursday suspended trade benefits under the GSP programme for Bangladesh.
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* DCCI urges US to revive GSP:

Voicing deep concern over the suspension of the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) facility to Bangladesh,  Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has urged the US government to revive the privilege.

In a statement on Monday, the DCCI said the decision is like a bolt from the blue when the Bangladesh government is going to amend the labour law 2006, signed the ILO-led government-employer-worker tripartite agreement to implement time-bound decisions and formed a ministerial committee to ensure compliance in garment factories.
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UNB BSS logo

* Menon blames Khaleda for GSP suspension by US:

Workers Party chief Rashed Khan Menon on Monday blamed opposition leader Khaleda Zia for the suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facilities by the US.

“By requesting USA to withdraw GSP facilities for Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia not only hampered the interest of the country, but also pushed the future of 40 lakhs garments workers into uncertainty,” he said.
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UNB newstodayBD NewNation

* Washington Times’ write-up not Khaleda’s: BNP:

Opposition BNP on Monday night claimed once again that party chairperson Khaleda Zia did not send any write-up to The Washington Times requesting the USA to suspend its GSP facility for Bangladesh.

“The Prime Minister in parliament harshly criticised our chairperson regarding the suspension of the GSP facility by the USA. The Prime Minister’s remarks were untrue, indecent and unparliamentarily, and part of their campaign to defame the opposition leader,” said BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi. He made the remarks at a press briefing at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office. Rizvi also claimed that BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia has no relation with the much-talked-about article, titled ‘ZIA: The thankless role in saving democracy in Bangladesh’ published in the US-based The Washington Times on January 30 last.
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* Reclaiming GSP- US suggests action plan:

The US government has recommended a set of action plans to Bangladesh to reclaim the GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) privileges that the Obama Administration suspended on Thursday over poor labour rights and safety issues.

One suggestion is to implement the commitments Bangladesh made under the National Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire and Structural Integrity.
The recommendations were made in a letter to Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the US, Akramul Qader, who on June 26 forwarded it to the foreign affairs ministry.
The Daily Star has obtained a copy of the letter.
The USA urged the government to achieve the targets negotiated at the hearings at the US Trade Representative (USTR) office since 2007 on a petition asking for the withdrawal of GSP privileges for Bangladeshi products.
Commerce Minister GM Quader said the ministry had already begun assessing the advancements in fire safety, labour rights and working conditions.
“I will send a note on the achievements in those areas to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina very soon.”
Quader said he, if asked, would also submit a report to the cabinet for discussion and that the commerce ministry would send it to the USTR if it got approved by the cabinet.
According to the proclamation of the GSP suspension, the USA will reconsider its decision after six months.
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daily star bd

* Restoring the US GSP facility:

thinking loud

Obama government has suspended the GSP (Generalised System of Preference) facility for Bangladesh exports. Bangladesh used to export furniture, toys, ceramic table wares, plastic materials, tents, tobacco products etc., under the GSP facility meant for the least developed and the developing countries.

Bangladesh exported goods valued at USD 35 million to the US under the latter’s GSP facility in 2012 against which the former enjoyed a tariff benefit of USD 2.0 million. Goods exported under GSP enjoys ‘duty-free’ access. On the other hand Bangladesh exported ready-made garments worth USD 4.9 billion to the US retailers which was subjected to 15 per cent tariff. Bangladeshi exporters paid USD 750 million dollars in tariff charges.
However, the concerned stakeholders are apparently a bit panicky about the possible withdrawal of GSP facility by other countries or territories, especially the European Union (EU), where almost all products, most importantly, the ready-made garments enjoy GSP facility. Canada, a very good friend of Bangladesh, will continue with the ‘tax free’ entry of ‘Made in Bangladesh’ garments, while the United Kingdom is also extremely sympathetic to the Bangladesh causes, especially in view of the contribution the apparel industry is making to employment, women empowerment and social transformation.
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* Restoring US GSP to Bangladesh:

20130702 FE news_image

‘The US has shown sympathy for garment workers in Bangladesh. Although the US has suspended GSP for Bangladesh, it is not asking its buyers to pay little more for our garments. This would have enabled our garment owners to give better wages to the workers and provide other facilities.’

The United States has suspended trade privileges to Bangladesh through its Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for the latter’s failure to ensure labour safety and standards.

The decision was not a surprise as this was being discussed for quite sometime. The US was under intense pressure from politicians and labour organisations at home to cut off GSP privileges for Bangladesh. The Tazreen Fashion fire and collapse of the Rana Plaza added fuel to the fire. The Rana Plaza collapse that had claimed more than 1,100 lives made the US decision inevitable. The last-minute lobbying by the government also failed.

The government has criticised the suspension of trade privileges by the US as being harsh and shocking. It insists that it has taken concrete steps to improve workers’ safety and rights. Although the GSP does not cover garments, the loss of preferential treatment came as an embarrassment for the government. Dhaka listed a series of steps it has taken such as labour law reforms, ILO-led tripartite agreement to implement time-bound decisions and formation of a ministerial panel to ensure compliance in garment factories. This shows seriousness of the government. Bangladesh believes that its partnership with the US is founded on certain core values such as democracy, human rights, rule of law, women empowerment, freedom of expression and social justice.
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20130702-03

* EU engagement is welcome:

It is welcome news that the EU has recommended Bangladesh’s trade status be maintained when it comes up for renewal at the end of 2013. 

Bangladesh’s RMG industry benefits from the EU’s Everything but Arms (EBA) scheme for developing countries under the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) rules. Were a domino effect from the recent US decision to suspend GSP benefits to spread to EU trade rules, this would have severe consequences, as Bangladesh’s RMG exports to the EU hit $11bn last year.

The US decision is regrettable because it paradoxically penalises Bangladesh’s non-garment exporters to the US, in the name of improving labour standards within Bangladesh’s garment sector. The EU approach and decision has more logic as it actively seeks to move forward dialogue and engagement between buyers, producers and workers, to help improve conditions for RMG workers.
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DHAKATRIBUNE

* Begum Khaleda Zia alone responsible for suspension of GSP:Dr Hasan:

Environment and Forest Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud today said the Opposition Leader and BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia alone responsible for suspension of the GSP.

“Begum Khaleda Zia wrote letters to the USA and some other countries to cancel the GSP. She also wrote for canceling visas and stop giving assistance to Bangladesh and thus way she has engaged herself in conspiracy against the state,” he said while speaking as the chief guest at a discussion here.
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BSS

* Khaleda joins hands with int’l clique to ruin garment industry: Inu:

Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu said there are local and foreign conspiracies behind the suspension of GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) on Bangladesh products to the Unites States market.

“Those who are hatching conspiracies with the country’s garment industry cannot be treated as friends of the country, its people and industrialisation,” he said.
The Minister said opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia has been pursuing a politics of conspiracy and she has been trying to topple the government from power over the past four years or so.
As part of the conspiracy, Inu said Khaleda Zia has joined hands with the international clique to ruin the country’s garment industry, which is very unfortunate for Bangladesh.
The Minister called upon the opposition leader to seek apology to the people confessing her faults by refraining from unnecessary plea.
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BSS

* Ask Washington Times to clarify Khaleda article:

Treasury bench member Saber Hossain Chowdhury on Tuesday asked speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury to seek a clarification from the Washington Times how they had printed on January 30 a signed article of the opposition leader which she disowned in the house on June 29.

Saber also asked the speaker to take steps to realise compensation from the newspaper besides serving a legal notice on behalf of the house as the article tarnished the image of the institution of the leader of the opposition.
‘The opposition leader denied in the house having written the article and we have accepted her statement since the opposition leader is not just an individual, rather an institution,’ said Saber.
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* No doubt about article by Khaleda:

The Washington Times yesterday confirmed publishing an article by BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on January 30, which called upon western leaders to save the country’s democracy by putting pressure on the government.

The confirmation came hard on the heels of Khaleda’s denial in parliament on June 29 of sending any write-up to the US newspaper.
Contacted by The Daily Star yesterday, The Washington Times Executive Editor David S Jackson in an email said his newspaper did carry an article by Khaleda titled “ZIA: The thankless role in saving democracy in Bangladesh.”
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daily star bd

* TICFA signing to go ahead despite GSP suspension:

The suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is unlikely to impede the move to sign Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA) between Bangladesh and the United States, a senior government official said.

“I do not think that the GSP suspension will harm our move to sign the TICFA. We are not thinking in that way,” Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed told the FE.
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* US decision defies logic:

The Obama Administration has finally found a nation it’s willing to punish — mighty Bangladesh.
The US suspended tariff-free access to the US market for a small portion of Bangladesh’s exports last week.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the goal is “to see Bangladeshi workers in safe, appropriate work situations.”
But the real effect will be to hurt those workers and hand the AFL-CIO a protectionist victory.

Big Labour has petitioned since 2007 to strip Bangladesh of its privileges under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), which allows lower tariffs for goods from developing countries. The collapse of the Rana Plaza textile factory building in April killed more than 1,100 people, while giving the Administration a political excuse to do the bidding of the AFL-CIO and its allies in Congress.

The decision defies economic or moral logic. First, the US GSP programme doesn’t include textiles, the industry that has attracted the labour movement’s ire. Garments account for more than 90 percent of Bangladesh’s exports to the US, and these goods will continue to pay an average tariff of 15 percent. Tariffs on clothes didn’t encourage better safety standards in the textile industry, and higher tariffs on other products will squeeze those factories’ profit margins and possibly force them to cut corners on safety.

Textile tariffs merely slow the ability of Bangladesh and similar countries to get on the first rung of the development ladder. Sewing work is well suited to migrants from the countryside with few skills, and because it requires dexterity rather than strength, it gives opportunities to women.
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daily star bd

* Full freedom for trade unionism:

Govt moves to amend labour law to win back GSP from US

In a desperate bid to regain a duty waiver from the US, the government has decided to give workers full freedom to run trade unions in factories.

Parliament, amid pressure from the US and the European Union, two main export destinations for Bangladesh, is likely to pass the amended labour law on July 14.
It will be the government’s first visible step to regain a trade privilege scheme known as the generalised system of preferences (GSP) that the Obama administration scrapped on June 27, citing “serious shortcomings” in safety and labour standards.
The cabinet approved the proposed labour law on May 13.
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, minister for expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment, said, “The main purpose of the amending the law is to establish a warm relationship between workers and owners through trade unions.”
But the workers must maintain discipline in factories, said Mosharraf, also chairman of a parliamentary sub-committee on labour law reforms.
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daily star bd

20130703-04

* BNP blames special agency men for spreading propaganda against Khaleda:

The main opposition BNP has blamed the government for spreading propaganda against its party chief Khaleda Zia over her write-up in US newspaper Washington Times seeking cancellation of Bangladesh’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facilities in US market.

“People from a certain special agency published a write-up in the Washing Times on January 30, copying signature of our party chief Khaleda Zia,” BNP joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi claimed.
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logo DHAKATRIBUNE bdnews24 BANGLA NEWS24 daily star bd

* GSP cut and its fallout:

All eyes had been on the issue of generalised system of preferences (GSP) in Bangladesh, following the Rana Plaza tragedy in April. While the country has managed to cling to the GSP privileges provided by the European Union, it has not been lucky in the case of USA.

A petition for withdrawal of GSP was filed by the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisation (AFL-CIO) in 2007 when it called for improving worker rights.
Bangladesh had six years to be in accord with the needs of the US; however, the last straw came after the Rana Plaza building collapse and within two months of the incident, the trade waiver scheme was suspended.
Now there arrives a new line of thought sated with optimism that the suspension can actually act as a catalyst to improve labour rights and safety conditions of factories.
Undeniably this issue needs to be dealt with immediately starting foremost with the garment sector as this is a major lifeline to the economy and naturally attracts a lot of global attention in the face of an accident or mismanagement. But will suspension of the US GSP actually improve safety conditions in the crucial garments sector?
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daily star bd

*  GSP suspension may hit FDI flow further: Moody’s:

Global rating agency Moody’s has said US suspension of trade benefits to Bangladesh may hit its foreign direct investment (FDI) flow further.

The FDI, which was already low at 0.9 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) in the fiscal year (FY) ended June 2012 versus the previous fiscal’s 2.4 per cent, is likely to decrease further in an uncertain operating environment, a report released recently by the agency said.
“Although the US’s decision to suspend trade benefits will have very limited immediate implications for export growth, the move may have negative signalling effects, since it could further deter investors who are already faced with the frequent occurrence of strikes and uncertainty over the future labour environment,” it said.
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20130705-06

* Restoring trade benefit under US GSP:

Bangladesh, as a least developed country (LDC), was a beneficiary of the US generalised system of preferences (GSP) programme under the US Trade Act of 1974.

The US suspended the GSP facility for Bangladesh on grounds of less than adequate labour and workplace safety standards in the country’s factories, particularly garment factories. National dailies and the electronic media have been busy speculating the likely impact of the US action through reactions of various stakeholders including the government. Although common perception suggests that the US action is not going to directly affect Bangladesh’s multi-billion dollar ready-made garment (RMG) industry, many conscientious citizens have termed the action as shocking for the country, given the huge scale of the industry where improvement is sure to be time consuming. The opposition and the government, at the top level, are as usual blaming each other for inviting the undesirable US action.

Bangladesh government has described the decision ‘unfortunate’ and expected US would consider reviving the facility soon. The Cabinet has already taken steps to amend the labour law to ensure social and physical safety of the workers.
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* Apparel workers may form TUs sans informing owners:

Govt not considering trade unions for EPZs

The government has initiated the process of bringing about necessary changes in the proposed amendment to the labour law to make it time-befitting, aiming to retain the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility in the US market, official sources said.

Inclusion of some provisions like allowing trade unions without informing the apparel factory owners, enhancement of maternity leave and gratuity facilities and sharing profits with the workers in the labour law are under active consideration of the government, they added.
(…)
The committee recently held meetings with both labour leaders and garment owners to take their opinions.
“The provision of informing the factory owner about formation of a trade union is likely to be dropped from the existing labour law as there is allegation of sacking or harassment when such a move is taken to form any labour union,” Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan told the FE late this week.
(…)
However, the government is not considering allowing trade unions in the Export processing Zones (EPZs), he said adding there is a welfare fund for workers at the EPZs through which they can bargain for their rights.
“We are reviewing the issues related to safety standards and trade unions, profit sharing, maternity leave and gratuity benefits aiming to make the existing law more labour welfare-oriented,” Labour Secretary Mikail Shipar said
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* Maintaining labour standards:

The latest government move to re-examine the existing labour law and make a new piece of legislation by parliament, has come in response to demands from different circles.

It has come in the wake of the suspension of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) on Bangladeshi goods by the US administration. Furthermore, it has come at a time when the European Union (EU), which announced its decision about not toeing the US line, has sought a copy of the earlier draft law for scrutiny at a high-level meeting to be held in Geneva on July 08. The meeting will focus on labour rights, safety and health at the workplace and responsible business conduct. The duty- and quota-free access of Bangladesh’s exports, including apparel items, to the EU market has greatly helped the socio-economic development of the country over the years.

In case of the USA, the suspension of the GSP facility does not much affect Bangladesh’s exports of apparels because the latter do not enjoy duty-free market access there.
The non-apparel exports to the US market will be adversely hit by this but such items fetch a very small amount of money, in terms of export receipts, from the USA. Moreover, the USA accounts only for about one-fourth of Bangladesh’s aggregate export earnings in the apparel sector. But earnings from the EU market constitute about 40 per cent of its total export receipts by the sector. Nonetheless, the suspension of the GSP facility for Bangladesh’s exports to the USA has other implications.
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* Many sub-contracting apparel factory owners trying to upgrade compliance:

Many sub-contracting apparel factory owners are rushing to the offices concerned for taking necessary certifications aiming to upgrade their units as compliant ones, following continuous pressure from their mother factories, industry insiders said.

They said the sub-contracting factories — both members and non-members of BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association) — have been facing dearth of work as big garment makers, who take work orders directly, are either turning away from the third-parties or are opting for the compliant ones in the face of strict monitoring of safety measures by the buyers.

To become compliant a factory has to acquire at least five certificates like structural design of the building with soil test report, fire safety, group insurance, inter-bond approval both from government and non-government agencies; but most of the sub-contracting factories have no such certifications except trade licence.
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* Environmental standards in RMG:

European Union’s Ambassador to Bangladesh William Hannah said that European Union has provided the best possible market access to Bangladesh for several decades through GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) and a quota free access of its exports as one of the LDCs (less developed countries).

He was speaking as the chief at a workshop on ‘researching and analyzing export market’: connecting exporters with equity and debt financing sources and creating linkages between Bangladeshi exporters and Diaspora communities’ in the city
Deutsche GesellschaftfürInternationale Zusammenarbeit(GIZ) GmbH organized a two-day capacity-building workshop sponsored by International Trade Centre (ITC), Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BGCCI)and supported by European Union (EU) on “Researching and Analysing Export Markets”
at the German House recently, said a press release.
William Hannah said ‘first we gave Bangladesh the market access in fullest term, then provided support to improve the trade capacity which we are still providing and finally relaxed the rules of origin for GSP two years ago to make the maximum use of the EBA (Everything But Arms – Duty-free, quota free treatment for all LDCS).”
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newstodayBD

* EU assures Bangladesh of continuing GSP privileges: BGMEA:

The European Union (EU) assured Bangladesh of not following the United States (US) regarding the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) privileges, said M Atiqul Islam, President of BGMEA.

“GSP is a big challenge for Bangladesh although EU assured us of not following the US about GSP facilities,” Atiqul told a Meet The Press at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) conference room today.
DRU president Shahed Chowdhury and joint secretary Elias Hossain also spoke on the occasion.
Atiqul, however, said the multi-billion dollar readymade Garment (RMG) industry is now passing through a critical juncture as conspiracies both at home and abroad are being hatched in the sector.
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BSS DHAKATRIBUNE

* EU to see proper homework, visible dev for getting back GSP benefit:

Bangladesh needs proper homework and to show visible improvements in safety and workers trade union right issues, and address other areas of concern instead of merely giving lip-services to regain suspended GSP benefits in the US market, economists say, reports UNB.

“In the mid-term, we need to do proper homework and will have to show visible improvements in the areas of concerns including trade union and safety issues,” Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a leading think-tank, told UNB on Friday.
He said the US will review the GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) scheme after six months, when Bangladesh can apply for getting back the benefits.
“It seems to me that getting back the GSP benefits won’t be possible within a year as it’s not a job that can be accomplished overnight… decision will be taken after a certain process.”
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newstodayBD

* GSP cancellation a foreign plot: BGMEA:

Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Atiqul Islam blamed foreign conspiracy for cancellation of Generalized System of Preference (GSP) facility for Bangladesh in US.

He came up with the allegation while addressing a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity in the city on Friday.
Atiqul Islam said, “No country wants Bangladesh to do better economically. So, some countries are trying to grab Bangladeshi garment market in US.”
He added, “GSP cancellation is an over react by US administration. It should extend its supporting hand to Bangladeshi garments sector.”
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BANGLA NEWS24 daily star bd

 * Regaining GSP benefit possible within 6 months: Gowher Rizvi:

Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi on Friday said Bangladesh would get back the suspended GSP facility in the US market within six months though the leading economists think it is not possible even in a year.

“It’s possible to regain GSP benefits in the US market within the next six months,” the adviser said while talking to reporters at Banglabandha Land Port.
Gowher Rizvi, however, said Bangladesh needs to work on issues like introduction of trade union, safety and wage issues to regain the facility in the US market.
“Work on these issues has started. The Labour Law has already been amended and it’ll be passed by Parliament in its coming session,” he said.
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UNB

* Regaining GSP benefit not possible within a yr: CPD:

Bangladesh needs proper homework and to show visible improvements in safety and workers trade union right issues, and address other areas of concern instead of merely giving lip-services to regain suspended GSP benefits in the US market, economists say.

“In the mid-term, we need to do proper homework and will have to show visible improvements in the areas of concerns including trade union and safety issues,” Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a leading think-tank, told UNB on Friday.
He said the US will review the GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) scheme after six months, when Bangladesh can apply for getting back the benefits. “It seems to me that getting back the GSP benefits won’t be possible within a year as it’s not a job that can be accomplished overnight… decision will be taken after a certain process.”
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newstodayBD

* US GSP suspension: An appraisal:

The decision to suspend GSP (generalised system of preferences) to Bangladesh by the US last week did cause a stir in the international media.

No doubt, this suspension would taint and ruffle the image of Bangladesh as a trade partner, although the US Ambassador to Bangladesh reacting to his country’s actions sounded optimistic to view this suspension as a catalyst for Bangladesh to progress its labour and workforce safety standards.

The GSP programme was first adopted internationally by the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade And Development) at the UNCTAD-II Conference in 1968. It was first adopted by the US with the passing of the Trade Act of 1974. Unlike the Europeann Union’s GSP, which is implemented in ten-year cycle, the US GSP is subject to annual review.
In the Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report of January 9, 2013, prepared for the members and committees of the US Congress, the US GSP programme is referred to as a programme for providing non-reciprocal, duty-free tariff treatment to certain products imported from designated beneficiary developing countries.
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* Let’s stop blame game to restore US GSP:

The temporary suspension of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) by the United States has undoubtedly sent shockwaves across Bangladesh as it has brought governance issues in the country into sharp focus globally.

At the short-term, the suspension might appear to be a blow to the country’s image abroad as the World Bank’s cancellation of the much-needed soft-term credit for the planned Padma Bridge project did world-wide.
But in the longer run, driven by sheer necessity, the US decision is expected to make the country fully compliant with global labour standards and workplace safety. The Bangladeshi products will definitely outshine those of others as readymade garments do.
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20130707-08

* BD getting GSP status back:

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Mohammad Faruk Khan expressed hope that United States would revive the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) facilities for Bangladesh by next six months.

The minister came up with the expectation while addressing a roundtable titled ‘Garment Industry: Potentiality, Problem and Solution’.
Shippers Council of Bangladesh organized the programme at Daily Star Bhaban at Farmgate in the city on Sunday.
Faruk Khan said, “We are negotiating with Europe and United States of America. Hopefully the GSP facilities will be reinstated in America in the next six months.”
He added: “Through GSP suspension, the US did not help us. We worried about recent industrial accidents.”
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BANGLA NEWS24

* RMG Sector: UK assures BD of its constant support:

British High Commissioner in Dhaka Robert Gibson on Sunday assured Bangladesh of its constant support in improving workplace environment and safety issues.

The assurance came from a meeting with Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury at her office.
The British envoy said the importance of readymade garment industry for the development of Bangladesh is huge and laid emphasis on improvements in working environment and workers safety apart from fire safety, according to a media release.
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UNB DHAKATRIBUNE

* Labour rights, Workplace Safety – EU for time-bound plans for RMG Sector:

The European Union has suggested time-bound action plans to improve labour rights and factory safety for continuation of existing trade facilities to Bangladeshi exports, including readymade garment. 

Officials of commerce and labour ministries told New Age on Saturday that the EU wanted Dhaka to allow trade union in the readymade garment industry in six months.
In what seemed to be an indirect threat, the EU, the largest destination of the country’s exports, recently advised Bangladesh to take appropriate measures for improving workplace safety.
The EU provides GSP facility to Bangladeshi garment helping it to earn about $12 billion last year.
The EU has sent a draft about the future time-bound action plans Bangladesh should take for improvement of labour conditions especially in the fast growing RMG sector.
Dhaka, however, replied that it needed more time than suggested for successful implementation of the measures. The government has recently decided to amend the labour law for allowing RMG sector to unionise.
‘The government wants to gradually implement the measures suggested,’ said labour secretary Mikhail Shiper.He said a team was scheduled to leave the capital for Geneva to work out the issue with the EU trade experts.
read more.

* Geneva meet to soothe EU concerns on labour safety:

The European Union (EU), largest buyer of Bangladeshi apparels, was keen to work with the country to improve its labour standards, work place environment and other safety compliance issues, sources said.

EU trade commissioner De Gucht is scheduled to discuss the issues with a Bangladeshi delegation, led by foreign minister Dipu Moni, in Geneva on Monday.
The labour and commerce secretaries will also attend the meeting to apprise the EU of the steps taken by the government to improve the situation.
Following the suspension of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facilities by the USA because of Bangladesh’s poor record on labour rights and safety, there was apprehension that the EU would take a similar action.
The EU, however, dispelled the fear and said it would work closely with Bangladeshi stakeholders to improve workplace safety. The meeting, “Staying Engaged – A Sustainability Compact with Bangladesh”, would focus on labour rights, safety and health at work, and responsible business conduct.
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* Revival of GSP from US by 6 months: minister:

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Lt Col (retd) Faruk Khan today hoped that restoration of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) would be possible by the next six months as an expert team of the government is working on it.

The US government would soon understand that its decision to suspend the trade preferences would benefit neither them, nor  Bangladesh, he said.
He was speaking at a roundtable on ‘Garment Sector of  Bangladesh: Prospect, Problems, Challenges and Way Out’, arranged  by Shippers’ Council of Bangladesh (SCB) at The Daily Star conference room here.
Managing Editor of the daily Dr Salauddin Ahmed chaired the function while additional research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) KG Moazzem presented the keynote paper on the topic of the roundtable.
read more.& read more. & read more. & read more.  & read more.
BSS UNB newstodayBD daily star bd

* ‘Face glare on politics in RMG sector:

Speakers at a conference on the garment industry called for separating politics and business.

The perpetrators of the major mishaps in the sector have managed to escape punishment because of politicisation of business, the speakers said at the meeting on “Garments sector of Bangladesh: Prospects, problems, challenges and way out” in the city on Sunday. They added that there was a need for national unity to resolve the problems in the garments sector.
Civil aviation and tourism minister Muhammad Faruk Khan, who was the chief guest, expressed concern over the US decision to suspend Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) facilities for Bangladesh. “By withdrawing trade benefits, the US has created problems instead of providing assistance.
We are optimistic that it will lift the suspension within six months,” he said.
The minister emphasised on coordinated efforts to resolve the problems in the RMG sector. He informed that the government has set up a cabinet committee led by the textile minister to look into the problems and make recommendations to resolve them.
Khan said the present government increased the wages of garments workers by 82 per cent in the past four-and-a-half years. “The government is now thinking to increase their wages again,” he added.
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* Well-intentioned but poorly crafted:

GSP SUSPENSION

The populist move of the USTR would surely appease the trade union activists of the US as their shout is finally being heeded to. The real beneficiaries of the decision of the USTR are likely to be third country exporters to the US market who have competing export goods to the US market and the domestic manufacturing lobbies of the US. Along with the workers and industrialist of Bangladesh, the US consumers too would potentially lose from reduced choices and higher prices for their goods, writes Md Rizwanul Islam

I would be among the last few persons to deny that there are not quite significant and recurrent violations of labour rights in the manufacturing outlets of Bangladesh. Like many others, I also ardently believe that as the national legal and political system have dismally failed to ensure internationally recognised labour rights and safety of workers at workplace, the international community has to act in some form. I accept that the actions of the international community should be decisive and can even be punitive. But I would also be among the last few to accept that a blanket punitive measure such as the decision of the United States Trade Representative to withdraw the facilities enjoyed by Bangladeshi exporters for exporting around 5,000 products under the generalised system of preferences is warranted.
read more.

* TICFA and GSP: Separate but important issues:

The Ministry of Commerce in particular and the government, in general, have been under focus over the last few weeks on the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement (TICFA) and the question of restoration of Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) facility with the United States.

Several conspiracy theories have also been advanced by different quarters about possible after-effects that might stem from our being engaged within these two paradigms.

It may be recalled that formal negotiations for TICFA began in 2002 in the name of Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). It was later re-branded as TICFA to make it a binding accord for necessary cooperation between the two countries.
Unofficially, this subject has been included during discussions with the United States since 1992. Five ministries in the Bangladesh government were involved in this process. The eventual agreement of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs enabled the Cabinet to agree to sign the TICFA agreement. It would be useful to note here that apart from some regional agreements, Bangladesh has so far signed bilateral trade agreements with 42 countries.
read more.

* Is Indian industry safe, asks GlobalPost of US:

As Indian ready-made garment (RMG) makers are expecting new exports orders worth $3.0 billion in 2014 in the wake of industrial mishaps in Bangladesh, a recent deadly building collapse in Mumbai has raised a fresh question on safety of the factories in India.

Following the collapse of a two-storey factory building on Thursday in Bhiwandi, near the India’s financial capital, GlobalPost, an online news portal of the United States operating from Boston wondered in its report on Saturday: “Is the Indian industry really safer?

So far, six people have died and around 40 suffered serious injuries, following the collapse of a two-storey factory building in Bhiwandi, an urbanised village in the Thane district, on the outskirts of Mumbai.

The accident drew attention to safety issues in India’s own garment manufacturing sector, even as industry heavyweights forecast a boom in orders from the US and European brands fleeing Bangladesh due to the collapse of a garment factory in April there.
read more.  ( & article GlobalPost here)

 

map of Asia

HEADLINES:

20130628
* US move to cut trade privileges ‘shocking’: Bangladesh
* Workers’ bodies flay GSP suspension
* GSP suspension to hit US-BD trade
* Bangladesh loses US trade benefits
* GSP Suspension for Bangladesh: A Step Forward for Workers’ Rights and Public Health
* Bangladesh hopes to get GSP status back
* BGMEA hopes US to revive GSP
* US to restore GSP, hopes Bangladesh
* Govt urged to talk GSP with US to uphold country’s image
* GSP suspension government’s failure: BNP
* Inu blames Khaleda for GSP suspension
* Mozena justifies GSP revocation
* ‘GSP revocation a political move’
* US decision to affect image, not trade
* GSP cut won’t affect exports: EPB
* EU main concern: FBCCI
* EU’s response remains main concern now
* No plan to ban Bangladesh apparel import: US
* The suspension of US GSP
* GSP withdrawal by US has far-reaching ramifications
* US Suspends Bangladesh Trade Concessions over Labour Rights Violations

20130629
* Garment makers shocked
* Khaleda lobbied for cancellation of GSP facilities in US: Nasim
* Initiate talks with US
* GSP cut for BD was inevitable
* GSP suspension to spur further efforts
* ITUC appreciates US GSP decision
* GSP cut an opportunity to improve Bangladesh: US

20130629-30
* ‘US decision to suspend GSP illogical’
* The effects of GSP suspension
* GSP suspension goes against Bangladesh’s development: Faruque Khan
* BGMEA requests GSP revival
* BGMEA criticizes US for not allowing timeframe
* CCCI urges US to resume GSP facilities
* BNP to request US for restoring GSP: Fakhrul
* CPB condemns US decision to suspend GSP
* Hasina slams Khaleda for urging US to scrap GSP, impose sanctions
* Khaleda urges US to reconsider GSP benefits for Bangladesh
* BNP to formally request US for restoring GSP: Fakhrul
* FBCCI seeks steps to restore GSP
* Govt must obey US norms to get GSP back: Dr Yunus
* Blame game on GSP
* US to work with Bangladesh on GSP restoration
* US says GSP cut an Opportunity
* US State Dept spokesman draws barrage of questions
* USTR suggests ‘action plan’ to get GSP restored
* Exporters bracing for fallout
* Regaining GSP facility warrants all-out efforts
* Suspension and speculations
* EU won’t follow US GSP action
* US GSP suspension and the worry-box
* China considering preferential trade benefits for B’desh
* B’desh to miss opportunity unless it signs TICFA
* Ticfa an innocent proposal: BoI chief
* WP protests against TICFA
* Obama sticks it to Bangladesh
* GSP facilities in EU till Dec!

20130630-20130701
* EU GSP withdrawal for Bangladesh must be avoided: EU
* EU not to go US way
* EU seeks to read new labour law
* EU to continue GSP for Bangladesh
* BD may have a short pause in RMG growth for GSP suspension
* Govt yet to decide on TU activities in EPZs
* Punishing the workers
* GSP suspension a wake-up call
* Dhaka wants Ticfa before GSP appeal

20130701-02
* Government to form committee for reviving GSP
* EU to help Bangladesh keep GSP intact
* RMG not to be hurt by GSP halt
* DCCI urges US to revive GSP
* Menon blames Khaleda for GSP suspension by US
* Washington Times’ write-up not Khaleda’s: BNP
* Reclaiming GSP- US suggests action plan
* Restoring the US GSP facility
* Restoring US GSP to Bangladesh

20130702-03
* EU engagement is welcome
* Begum Khaleda Zia alone responsible for suspension of GSP:Dr Hasan
* Khaleda joins hands with int’l clique to ruin garment industry: Inu
* Ask Washington Times to clarify Khaleda article
* No doubt about article by Khaleda
* TICFA signing to go ahead despite GSP suspension
* US decision defies logic
* Full freedom for trade unionism

20130703-04
* BNP blames special agency men for spreading propaganda against Khaleda
* GSP cut and its fallout
* GSP suspension may hit FDI flow further: Moody’s

20130705-06
* Restoring trade benefit under US GSP
* Apparel workers may form TUs sans informing owners
* Maintaining labour standards
* Many sub-contracting apparel factory owners trying to upgrade compliance
* Environmental standards in RMG
* EU assures Bangladesh of continuing GSP privileges: BGMEA
* EU to see proper homework, visible dev for getting back GSP benefit
* GSP cancellation a foreign plot: BGMEA
* Regaining GSP benefit possible within 6 months: Gowher Rizvi
* Regaining GSP benefit not possible within a yr: CPD
* US GSP suspension: An appraisal
* Let’s stop blame game to restore US GSP

20130707-08
* BD getting GSP status back
* RMG Sector: UK assures BD of its constant support
* Labour rights, Workplace Safety – EU for time-bound plans for RMG Sector
* Geneva meet to soothe EU concerns on labour safety
* Revival of GSP from US by 6 months: minister
* ‘Face glare on politics in RMG sector
* Well-intentioned but poorly crafted
* TICFA and GSP: Separate but important issues
* Is Indian industry safe, asks GlobalPost of US

latest tweets (& news)

Convention on the Rights of the Child
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand

What are their names
And on what streets do they live
I'd like to ride right over
This afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind
About peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask
    David Crosby

I wonder who they are
The people who are buying these clothes
I'd like to know what they've paid for it
How much the makers have paid for this
Fairer income is not an awful lot to ask
Better working conditions is not an awful lot to ask
    A. Searcher

For more and other (labour) news you can follow on twitter: @asearcher2