The Daily Star: Apparel makers seek fair prices, duty cut from US

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Sun, Sep 12, 2021

Local apparel makers have sought fair prices from their US buyers and urged the US government to cut tariffs on garment items sourced from Bangladesh.

Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), emphasised the need for a smoother and more sustainable supply chain and sourcing.

He also requested buyers to minimise multiple auditing of factories to reduce the cost facing factory owners.

The call came at a roundtable titled “Seven years after Rana Plaza: Who is doing what?” organised by Bangladesh’s embassy in Washington on Friday, according to a press release.

Officials of the government and the leaders of the BGMEA briefed the US government and other stakeholders on the ongoing efforts to improve factory safety and ensure workers’ welfare in the garment industry and encourage more US import of apparel items from Bangladesh.

The US is a major destination for RMG exports from Bangladesh, with the annual shipment standing at around $6 billion.

The US suspended the generalised system of preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh in June 2013, two months after the collapse of Rana Plaza. Dhaka has been calling for the restoration of the trade facility.

Garment makers say their operational costs have gone up, so they are demanding fair prices and a reduction in tariffs.

M Shahidul Islam, ambassador of Bangladesh to the US, recognised the immense contribution of the garment industry to Bangladesh’s economy.

The government has undertaken various initiatives to support the workers’ welfare and the industry, particularly since after the tragic Rana Plaza incident, he said.

He underlined the importance of initiating comprehensive discussions and dialogues at all forums, including the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement, to promote trade between the two countries.

BGMEA chief Hassan highlighted the initiatives taken by the government and the trade body, including the establishment of the RMG Sustainability Council and Tripartite Consultative Council to sustain workplace safety and promote the rights and welfare of the garment workers.

He briefed the participants about the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to the garment industry and how the BGMEA supported the workers during this difficult time.

He also acknowledged the government’s generous support to the exporters through unveiling of stimulus packages.

During the interactive session, Christopher Wilson, assistant US Trade Representative for South Asia, stated about the current US administration’s emphasis on the welfare of the workers both at home and abroad.

Mentioning the tariff issue as the prerogative of the US Congress, he underscored the need for constant and closer engagements between the two governments on labour and related issues, said the press release of the Bangladesh embassy.

William Jackson, assistant USTR for textiles, Jennifer Larson, director for South and Central Asia of the US Department of State, Maureen Haggard, director for democracy, human rights and labour of the US Department of State, Miran Ali, vice-president of the BGMEA, Ambassador Teresita Schaffer from the McLarty Associates, and representatives of the US-Bangladesh Business Council, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, and brands Walmart and Target participated in the roundtable.

Source: The Daily Star