US retailers pledge to aid garment workers in Asia - Just Style
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US retailers pledge to aid garment workers in Asia

By Beth Wright 29 Oct 2020

A consortium of US apparel and footwear brands, retailers, importers and industry associations has signed a pact with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to help supply chain workers across Asia.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will see the signatories work to help the predominantly female workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

The document was signed by USAID deputy administrator Bonnie Glick and Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) at the US Government’s third annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum, which was hosted virtually out of Hanoi, Vietnam, yesterday (28 October). 

The participating companies and industry associations are Carter’s Inc; Gap Inc; Global Brands Group; Levi Strauss & Company; Nike; Tapestry; Target; VF Corporation; Walmart; the National Retail Federation (NRF); the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA); and the US Fashion Industry Association (USFIA).

USAID and the consortium intend to work together over the coming year to create a more resilient apparel, footwear and fashion-accessories (AFFA) sector and workforce, enhance factory worker rights and welfare, and empower women in the workforce.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on global supply-chains, disrupting trade and investment, putting frontline workers at risk, and eliminating the jobs of millions of other workers, especially women.

The AFFA sector in Asia has been among the hardest-hit, challenged by constraints on supply and demand that arose from stay-at-home orders, temporary closures of businesses, stoppages in production, backlogs in shipment, and cargo delays.

Separate research by the International Labour Organization (ILO) last week also pointed to the impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on the garment sector in the Asia-Pacific region, with plummeting retail sales in key export markets affecting workers throughout supply chains.