The withdrawal of US quotas in 2005 would choke Bangladeshi exports and cause unrest among textile workers the Bangladesh Minister of Commerce has told Washington diplomats.

Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said Bangladesh's apparel industry was already struggling to compete with goods from Sub-Saharan Africa or the Caribbean Basin, which are exempt from US import taxes and duties. He said Bangladesh-made apparel was effectively 16 percent more expensive than its competitors in these regions.

"Bangladesh does not have its own local market. We rely on exports for purchasing power at home," Chowdhury said. "The US is a major market for us. If we lose this market it will be a disaster."

Textiles account for 75 per cent of Bangladesh's total exports, of which 45 per cent go to the United States. In the past eight months more than 300,000 textile workers have lost jobs in Bangladesh due to plant closures.