Apparel exporters in Bangladesh say upcoming challenges likely to impact the sector include a possible free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and India, and the lifting of trade restrictions on Burma.

"We're not worried, but we need consolidated efforts to face the challenges," Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told just-style.

The apparel leader, speaking at a press briefing in the capital Dhaka, added: "We also need to improve our human resources by providing training, along with infrastructural development."

Negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the EU have been taking place since 2007, but Mohiuddin believes talks will conclude at the end of this year or early next year. He also fears the country will get preferential treatment in the form of reduced or zero rates of customs duties.

As well as India emerging as a big competitor to Bangladesh in the EU market, the EU is set to temporarily waive import duties on a range of textiles, apparel and footwear products from Pakistan.

The potential threats come as Bangladesh's ready-made garment (RMG) sector faces challenges due to the ongoing Eurozone crisis and the weakening US economy.

Identifying another challenge, the BGMEA chief said the trade ban that had been imposed on Burma, officially known as Myanmar, by the US and the EU has already been withdrawn.

"Since, Myanmar is an energy-rich country it will become a big competitor of Bangladesh in the future," he noted.

The apparel leader also said the time has come to take these issues seriously and prepare to overcome the challenges.