The president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Faruque Hassan, made the call for US brands and retailers to be more rational when it comes to the prices they pay for garments, at a roundtable held in Washington DC.

“Our factories are increasingly investing money for safety and sustainability. Besides, production cost has gone up by more than 30% in last five years. On the contrary, the price of our apparel is declining every year. While it’s a fact that in a free market economy price cannot be dictated, but nobody can justify a lower price to produce socially fair goods,” he said.

“It is the collaboration and partnership between brands and our suppliers that has helped us to achieve tremendous growth so far and future cooperation and partnership will help us to maintain this,” Faruque Hassan added.

The roundtable was attended by senior US government officials including Christopher Wilson, Assistant US Trade Representative for South Asia; William Jackson, Assistant USTR for Textiles, and Jennifer Larson, Director for South and Central Asia of the US Department of State; Maureen Haggard, Director for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the US Department of State; former Bangladeshi diplomat Farooq Sobhan, BGMEA Vice President Miran Ali, Ambassador Teresita Schaffer from the McLarty Associates, representatives of US-Bangladesh Business Council, American Apparel and Footwear Association, Walmart, Target, as well as senior officials of the Bangladesh Embassy.

Hassan briefed the US Government and relevant stakeholders about how the readymade garment industry of Bangladesh has undergone massive transformation over the last few years to become one of the safest industries in the world and have the highest number of green garment factories across the globe. He also apprised the participants of the steps and measures taken by the industry to ensure workers’ wellbeing.

He urged the US government to consider reducing duty on apparel products from Bangladesh and for the US to encourage the exploration of investment opportunities in textile industries in Bangladesh, particularly in the non-cotton segment.

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He also stressed the need for a unified code of conduct as multiple audits are not only waste of time and money, but also the audit fatigue makes compliance difficult for enterprises.

Last month the Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi told attendees at the ‘Men’s Apparel Guild in California’, in Las Vegas that the Bangladesh government aims to increase the volume of garment exports to the US. The aim is to gain a bigger market share in a country where he says Bangladesh already sends US$7bn worth of garments each year.