Dhaka, EU pledge to safeguard EU GSP

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May 28, 2013

By Sheikh Shahriar Zaman

Foreign buyers urged to remain engaged with the country.

Bangladesh and the European Union (EU) have pledged to safeguard the EU generalised scheme of preference (GSP) by improving labour safety standards in the country and urged foreign buyers to continue business in the nation.

“We pledge to safeguard everything but arms benefits through determined action, to improve health and occupational safety standards in the export-oriented ready-made garment factories in Bangladesh,” said a joint statement issued by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on Tuesday.

“We urge foreign buyers, in particular European companies, to remain engaged and work with the EU and Bangladesh to support and promote socially responsible supply chains. A dedicated meeting, to that effect, will take place before this summer to consider related issues,” the statement said.

The foreign minister is now in Brussels to discuss labour safety and rights issues with the EU following the collapse of Rana Plaza, which killed more than 1,100 people.

Bangladesh enjoys duty-free and quota-free market access under the EU’s preferential “Everything but Arms” trade scheme and as a result, the EU is largest export destination for Bangladesh.

Dhaka exports over $10bn worth of products to the EU out of its total export of about $22bn.

Both leaders expressed their condolences to the families of hundreds of workers who lost their lives and others who sustained injuries in the factory collapse at Savar.

The meeting between Dipu Moni and Gucht on Tuesday demonstrates the collective determination to work together to improve the labour conditions for Bangladeshi workers in the RMG industry.

They agreed that the devastating and tragic incident of Rana Plaza calls for an urgent intensification of on-going efforts to work together to enhance workers’ rights and safety standards, and to improve the overall work environment so as to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

“We express our resolve to approach a period of deep engagement for all actors involved the global value chain – namely, global buyers, brands, governments and consumers – to work together in promoting a fair, ethical and responsible supply chain across the industry,” the joint statement said.

The EU parliament also adopted a similar resolution on May 23.

Both parties recognised that the adoption of a joint statement by tripartite partners (the government, employers, and workers) with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on May 4, provides a valuable starting point for intensifying efforts to improve health and occupational safety in the garment sector.

“In this regard, we look forward to the early commencement of the ILO Better Works Programme. We look also forward to an early adoption of the government’s recent initiative to amend the existing labour law, which has already been recommended to the parliament by the Bangladesh cabinet,” the statement said.

Source: Dhaka Tribune