US: More progress needed for Bangladesh to regain GSP
The US has indicated that "much more work" is still needed to improve Bangladesh's labour standards before the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) benefits can be reinstated.
A joint federal agency statement issued to mark the first anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building complex, highlights a number of lingering concerns about basic worker rights in the country.
These include concerns about basic worker rights protections under both Bangladesh's labour law and its special Export Processing Zone law, say the US Agency for International Development, the Department of State, the Office of the US Trade Representative, and the Department of Labor.
They also note that "Bangladesh government's hiring of inspectors is lagging, and the results of inspections need to be made publicly available on an easily accessible database. The government of Bangladesh must also do more to ensure protection when workers face intimidation and reprisals for trying to organize.
"Addressing these issues would help workers secure safer working conditions and better wages and enable Bangladesh to realize its full economic potential."
The US suspended GSP benefits to Bangladesh in June 2013, citing "serious shortcomings" in safety and labour standards following the collapse of the Rana Plaza building.
At the time, it set out an Action Plan listing specific steps that Bangladesh should take before GSP benefits were reinstated - including improved labour, fire, and building standards, the removal of obstacles to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and reforming its labour laws.
The US agencies acknowledge that progress has been made in some areas - including the registering of over 140 unions, re-registration of a leading labour rights non-governmental organisation, an ambitious plan for safety inspections and factory-level monitoring and remediation across the garment sector in collaboration with the ILO, the hiring of new labor inspectors, and conducting preliminary safety inspections.
However, the comments come ahead of a second hearing scheduled next month to consider renewal of the system. A first hearing in February this year also said much more needs to be done to comply with the US action plan.
While the GSP system allows the export of certain goods to the US duty-free, it has little impact on apparel and instead offers relief to products like tobacco, sports equipment, china kitchenware and plastic articles.
But suspension of the system was intended to send out a powerful signal to the Bangladeshi government and business leaders.
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