Bangladesh must do more to address serious worker rights issues within its ready-made garment industry before the US considers reinstating its trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

President Obama suspended Bangladesh from the GSP, which does not apply to apparel, in June 2013 based on the country's failure to meet statutory eligibility requirements related to worker rights.

An interagency review led by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has concluded that while Bangladesh has made progress over the last year to address fire and building safety issues in the RMG sector, further progress is still needed.

More than 2,000 initial safety inspections of factories have been completed in the RMG sector over the last year. Most of these have been organised by initiatives led by brands and retailers from North America (the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety) and Europe (The Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety). As a result, at least 31 factories have been closed, while 17 more partially closed, and the hundreds more identified as needing remedial measures.

The interagency review also found that further progress is needed in several key areas under the Action Plan, a set of 16 proposals recommended by the USTR for Bangladesh to win back the GSP trade privileges. In particular, urgent progress is needed to fairly and systematically address reports of unfair labour practices and to advance and implement needed legal reforms, the USTR said.

It added that there has also been "little progress" in advancing the labour law reforms called for in the Action Plan, including changes to ensure that workers are afforded the same rights and protections in Export Processing Zones as in the rest of the country.

"We urge the government to complete remaining factory inspections as soon as possible to prevent recurrence of workplace tragedies such as those that occurred in 2012 and 2013," said US Trade Representative Michael Froman.

"There is more work to do, building on the collaboration between the government of Bangladesh, private sector stakeholders, and the International Labor Organization (ILO), to address the concerns about factory safety in the apparel sector.

He also called on the Bangladesh government to "accelerate its efforts to ensure workers' rights" and to "take measures to address continuing reports of harassment of and violence against labour activists who are attempting to exercise their rights".