The Embassy of Bangladesh hosted a roundtable on Friday ( Sept 10) in Washington, D.C. to brief the US government and relevant stakeholders on the ongoing efforts to improve factory safety and workers’ welfare in the readymade garment industry in Bangladesh and encourage more US import of Bangladeshi readymade garments.
The event was organized by leveraging the presence of Mr. Faruque Hassan, President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), who is currently visiting the US to promote Bangladesh’s apparel export to the US market.
The roundtable titled “Seven years after Rana Plaza: Who is doing what?” was participated by senior US government officials including Christopher Wilson, Assistant US Trade Representative (USTR) for South Asia; Mr. William Jackson, Assistant USTR for Textiles; and Ms. Jennifer Larson, Director for South and Central Asia of the US Department of State; Ms. Maureen Haggard, Director for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the US Department of State; BGMEA Vice President Miran Ali, Ambassador Teresita Schaffer from the McLarty Associates, representatives of US-Bangladesh Business Council, American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), Walmart, Target, as well as senior officials of the Bangladesh Embassy.
In his welcome remarks, Bangladesh Ambassador to the United States M Shahidul Islam recognized the immense contribution of the readymade garment industry to Bangladesh economy and its socio-economic development.
He said the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been undertaking various measures and initiatives to support the workers’ welfare and the industry, particularly since after the tragic Rana Plaza incident.
BGMEA President Faruque Hassan, in his presentation, highlighted various initiatives taken both by the Bangladesh government and his association, including establishment of the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) and formation of Tripartite Consultative Council (TCC) to sustain workplace safety and promote rights and welfare of the garment workers.
He briefed the participants about the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to Bangladesh garment industry and how his association supported the workers during this difficult time.
He also acknowledged the government’s generous contribution through stimulus package in this regard. Emphasizing the need for a smoother and more sustainable supply chain and sourcing, Hassan urged the U.S. buyers to minimize multiple auditing of the factories to reduce cost on the owners.
In view of the increased minimum worker’s wage and incremental operational and production cost in Bangladesh, BGMEA President requested the US buyers to offer higher and fair prices for apparels from Bangladesh.
He also urged the US government to consider a tariff reduction for Bangladeshi RMG products.
During the interactive session, Assistant USTR Christopher Wilson stated about the current US administration’s emphasis on welfare of the workers both at home and abroad. Mentioning tariff issue as the prerogative of the US Congress, he underscored the need for constant and closer engagements between the two governments on labor and related issues.
The participants in the roundtable also discussed a range of other relevant issues including empowerment of women workers in the industry, COVID-19 and vaccine support for the garment workers.
The participants appreciated the roundtable as an effective and timely initiative to exchange information on the important issue of workers’ welfare that have both economic and human rights dimensions.
Ambassador M Shahidul Islam concluded the roundtable by underlining the importance of taking comprehensive discussions and dialogues in all forums including TICFA to further promote trade and business between Bangladesh and the US.
He thanked all the participants for joining the event and making their valuable contribution to the roundtable discussion.