Bangladesh should try to avoid competing on cheap labour in the future and instead move into high-end products, the Dhaka Apparel Summit was told this week.

In the first event of its kind in Bangladesh, Professor Richard Appelbaum of the University of California at Santa Barbara said labour rights had declined in line with the fall in apparel prices in the US between 1989 and 2010.

He was speaking during the sixth session of the summit, entitled "Reinventing the Apparel Model – the Race to Responsible Buying & Productivity Enhancement".

Gunelie Winum, CEO of Sustainable Trade in Norway, said one cause of lower prices was that prices were fixed on the basis of the targets of buyers, rather than the true costs of production.

Meanwhile, Shahriar Alam, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, pointed out that, over the past ten years, apparel prices had fallen by 10% in the US and 25% in the EU – coinciding with the growth of Bangladesh’s apparel industry.

The Minister also recommended one unified audit by all buyers, instead of several, adding that the relationship between buyers and suppliers was crucial to responsible sourcing.