Bangladesh must do more to address the worker rights and safety concerns that led to the suspension of its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade benefits last year, the US says.

Following an inter-agency review led by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the US said the country had made some important progress, but must do more to meet the Action Plan given to Bangladesh by the US when GSP benefits were suspended in June last year.

The review agreed that the Bangladeshi government had registered about 120 new unions in the garment sector, dropped charges against labour activists, was co-operating with private sector safety and inspection initiatives, and had suspended operations in 20 unsafe factories.

But it added that “substantial” parts of the Action Plan were yet to be acted upon, including delays to hundreds of critical safety inspections, and a failure to hire additional inspectors.

The government had been slow to respond to continuing reports of harassment and violence against labour activists, and had not advanced the labour law reforms called for in the plan, including bringing the rights of workers in Export Processing Zones in line with the rest of the country.

“We are seeing some improvements that move us closer to our shared goal of protecting workers from another workplace tragedy such as the April 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse, including a significant increase in the registration of unions,” said US Trade Representative Mike Froman.

“However, we remain concerned about the large number of factories that have yet to be inspected, the lack of progress on needed labour law reforms, and continuing reports of harassment of and violence against labour activists who are attempting to exercise their rights.”