The EU-backed SMART Textile and Garments project will work with more than 100 garment and textile factories

The EU-backed SMART Textile and Garments project will work with more than 100 garment and textile factories

The EU funded SMART Myanmar project is moving into its third phase under the new name SMART Textiles & Garments, and will be supported by international retailers including H&M, Bestseller and C&A looking to boost performance within their Myanmar supply chains.

SMART Textile & Garments, launched in Yangon today (6 December), is again backed by the European Union and will have an expanded focus on training and improved social and environmental performance at more than 100 garment and textile factories across the country.

With support from engineers and local and European experts, the project will deliver on-site assessments and training on topics such as human resource management systems and workplace communications, occupational safety and health, chemicals and waste management, and energy efficiency.

"The European Union's unwavering commitment and support plays an important role in improving decent work conditions and responsible business practices in Myanmar," says permanent secretary U Myo Aung from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population. 

Pedro Campo Llopis, deputy head of development cooperation at the EU Delegation to Myanmar, adds: "Since 2013, Myanmar's garment sector has witnessed a staggering export-oriented growth. The garment industry has served largely the European market and created job opportunities for thousands, mostly women. Smart Myanmar has proven to be an extremely relevant programme in accompanying Myanmar's apparel industry's shift to more sustainable practices.

"Europe is one of the world's largest consumer markets and European consumers pay a lot of attention where the products they buy come from and how they are produced. Sustainable production and respect for international labour standards are therefore important topics in the EU's trade relations with Myanmar and this makes our cooperation with the Myanmar garment sector through the SMART Textiles & Garments programme so important."

According to Jacob Clere, team leader at SMART Myanmar, support from the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) has helped the initiative to carry out training and consultancy programmes "with 299 garment, textile and footwear factories since 2016, implementing thousands of improvements related to safe workplaces, effective HR management and energy efficiency. In our new project phase we aim to further strengthen sustainable production practices and responsible supply chains in Myanmar and Europe." 

The Southeast Asian country is one of the fastest-growing garment, footwear, and travel goods suppliers in the world, with apparel exports alone climbing from $2.7bn in 2017 to $3.86bn last year.

The European Union (EU) is its biggest market, with imports jumping 21.7% year-on-year to US$2.02bn in 2018, accounting for more than half of the country's ready-made garment exports.

Myanmar apparel exports currently enjoy duty-free access to the European Union through the Everything But Arms agreement (EBA), Canada (through the General Preferential Tariff program), and Japan (through the Japan-ASEAN free trade agreement).