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Americas

US to suspend Bangladesh trade privileges

© AFP

Video by Luke SHRAGO

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-06-28

Concerns over workers’ rights and safety have prompted the US to suspend trade privileges for Bangladesh it was announced Thursday. It follows the collapse of a building in the capital Dhaka in April which killed 1,129 people.

President Barack Obama is suspending US trade privileges for Bangladesh because of concerns over labour rights and worker safety that intensified after hundreds died there in the global garment industry’s worst accident.

In a proclamation, Obama said Thursday that Bangladesh was not taking steps to afford internationally recognised worker rights to employees in the South Asian country.

US Trade Representative Mike Froman said the US will, however, start new discussions with Bangladesh on improving workers’ conditions so the duty-free benefits that cover thousands of products can be restored.

Thursday’s announcement was the culmination of a yearlong review of labour conditions in the impoverished country. Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for the step since the April 24 collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka that killed 1,129 people.

Last month, 25 House Democrats wrote to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calling for comprehensive action to improve worker safety, and this week, nine Democratic senators urged President Barack Obama to suspend trade privileges but also establish a roadmap and schedule for reinstating them to Bangladesh based on improvements in worker safety and related labour law reforms.

Lawmakers also have criticised US retailers that source garments from Bangladesh for not joining the more than 40 mostly European companies that have adopted a five-year, legally binding contract that requires them to help pay for fire safety and building improvements. The Bangladeshi garment manufacturers’ association says it stepping up inspections and has closed 20 factories.

The garment industry employs some 4 million people in Bangladesh, 80 percent of them women.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-06-27

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